At first glance, it would seem Google’s planned $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility would be big trouble for Microsoft. If the deal goes through, it would give Google access to some 17,000 mobile phone-tech patents owned by Motorola, that Google could use in its patent fight with Microsoft. (Microsoft has said that some features in Google’s Android mobile-phone platform infringes on Microsoft’s patents.)
But not so fast.
At least one analyst is saying this could be an opportunity for Microsoft to woo vendors with its Windows Phone operating system, despite Microsoft’s partnership with Nokia. The Finnish phone manufacturing company has agreed to use the Windows Phone platform on its smartphones going into the future.
Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with tech-research company Gartner, thinks Microsoft “is going to be positioning itself as Switzerland here.”
“I’m sure (Microsoft) is busy reaching out to its device vendors pointing out that while it has a close relationship with Nokia, it doesn’t own Nokia. … A lot of third-party dealers were not overly thrilled with the Microsoft-Nokia deal. On the other hand, they can’t be thrilled that they were originally competing with Motorola on a level playing field… (A Google purchase of Motorola would) give third parties reason to pause and say: Who’s the lesser of two evils here?”
Cerrtainly, that seems to be the tack Microsoft is taking in this statement today from Andy Lees, President of the Windows Phone Division: “Investing in a broad and truly open mobile ecosystem is important for the industry and consumers alike, and Windows Phone is now the only platform that does so with equal opportunity for all partners.”
Google now has to reassure vendors it works with that they have nothing to fear from a Motorola acquisition.
And, indeed, Google CEO Larry Page, in his statement on Google’s official blog, took pains to do that, saying:
“This acquisition will not change our commitment to run Android as an open platform. Motorola will remain a licensee of Android and Android will remain open. We will run Motorola as a separate business. Many hardware partners have contributed to Android’s success and we look forward to continuing to work with all of them to deliver outstanding user experiences.”
But, Gartenberg said, that’s like saying Microsoft has licensed PCs to be manufactured by Dell, HP and Lenovo, but then telling them: “We’ve got Microsoft-branded PCs as well.”
Companies such as Samsung and HTC will now “have to decide if they want to stay with Android or build their own platforms” or move to Windows Phone, Gartenberg said.
A lot more is at stake here than just mobile phones. A Google acquisition of Motorola Mobility would also give it a boost in the tablet and cable set-top boxes – devices that Motorola currently makes.