What Google's Motorola buy means for Android, patents and your TV

Summary:The real reasons behind Google's decision to say Hello Moto...

The real reasons behind Google's decision to say Hello Moto...

Google's plans to buy Motorola Mobility should surprise nobody. Motorola is an obvious target for acquisition in the hyper-competitive, cut-throat mobile market, its star having faded somewhat since the glory days of the Razr.

Analyst house Gartner's latest report on the mobile device market shows Motorola in eighth place in the second quarter of this year, with just a 2.4 per cent market share. On top of that, the company has been Android-only since 2008, making it an easy fit for Google.

The rapid success of Android in the mobile space - beating its way to the top of the smartphone OS charts with a 43.4 per cent market share in the second quarter of this year - has not been without its challenges. Not least is that working with handset makers has meant Google has ceded some control over hardware and software, and as such the result has not always been the kind of Android experience Google wants to create.

Motorola Google Android

Motorola's mobile phones have been Android-only since 2008, making it an easy fit for GoogleImage: Motorola/Android/silicon.com

Android has been accused of fragmentation, with multiple versions of the operating system being used on different devices. And often handsets are not updated to the latest and greatest version of the OS - some remaining siloed in older versions of Android, frustrating users who are cut off from new features.

Proprietary skins on top of Android devices enable fancy graphics and other bells and whistles - but they can also slow the experience down, making it sluggish and cumbersome, the opposite of what Google surely wants to achieve. Such complications are the opposite of the simplicity of Apple's iOS, Google's big rival in the smartphone space. Buying Motorola gives Google greater influence over how its software is used, and gives it a better way of challenging Apple.

Indeed, Apple, HP - with its webOS, RIM and now Google can all offer an integrated stack of hardware and software, suggesting they think this gives them a real advantage in terms of creating innovative devices.

The big Android phone makers - HTC, LG, Samsung and Sony Ericsson - have all welcomed the move as "defending Android", but it would be understandable if they were worried about Google having it's own mobile hardware division. Google insists Android will remain open, but how open exactly?

Two-tier Android ecosystem

By pocketing Motorola there is a risk Google could create a two-tier Android ecosystem. The risk then is of other mobile makers cooling on the platform - if they see themselves being downgraded to second-class citizens of the Android ecosystem.

"I think that is a very real possibility," says Ovum analyst Nick Dillon. "If Google do start providing preferential access to code or whatever else to their own handset business then that could seriously upset the Android ecosystem. It's a big risk to the handset makers who are using Android and may cause them to reassess their commitment to the platform and potentially look outside the platform to other alternatives."

Being open source has meant Google has benefited from...

Topics: Mobility

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