Color me unsurprised. In an interview with The New York Times John Lagerling, Google’s director of business development for Android, all but confirmed that Google paid $12.5 billion for Motorola Mobility to get its hands on the company’s patent portfolio.
“The way I understand it is, it’s mostly about the patents, the way you can sort of disarm this huge attack against Android,” he said. After talking about companies wanting to use patents to drive margins up, Lagerling said, “Patents were used as a weapon to try to stop that evolution and scare people away from lower-cost alternatives. And I think with the Motorola acquisition we’ve shown we’re able to put skin in the game and push back.”
Okay, but what if the Motorola division wanted to build a Nexus product, though? Would its status as a Google-owned hardware maker insure that it would get top-billing over, say, LG or Samsung, who built the latest Nexus devices? Nope.
“[Motorola] stand where Sharp would stand, or Sony would stand, or Huawei would stand,” Lagerling said. “They would bid on doing a Nexus device just like any other company.”
Basically: Motorola Mobility’s greatest contribution to Google will be the fact that the company can use it as a suit of armor – for Android, of course – against Apple and Microsoft. In other words, Lagerling has dashed any remaining hope that Google would use Motorola Mobility to become a hardware company.
This puts Google squarely behind Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon in the race to build hardware and software in conjunction. Sure, Google has always primarily been a Web company, but that hasn’t stopped Microsoft, known mostly as a software company, from building the Surface tablet and, potentially, its own phone – and Microsoft didn’t spend billions of dollars to acquire an outside company in order to do so.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this admission is that Motorola has continued to build new phones. When it unveiled the new line of atrociously-named Droid Razr products earlier this year, it did so with Google’s Eric Schmidt on stage. The line between “Google” and “Motorola,” is unclear; the fact that Motorola is still shipping phones without stock Android is not.
As Farhad Manjoo put it in Fast Company, “How bizarre. If Google really wants to succeed as a gadget company, it should merge its Motorola and Android divisions into a single hardware-software powerhouse, anointing Google’s own devices as the true home for Android.”
Unfortunately, based on what Lagerling told The New York Times, that seems unlikely to happen. Google and Motorola didn’t move in together because of Motorola’s status as a hardware company – they moved in together so Google could be the one using Android-related patents. So as far as marriages go, the “Googorola” union looks to be fairly cold.