About my next Android phone: Google Buys Motorola Mobility (for $12.5B).
This deal is very good for me, as a consumer of high-end smart phones, for several reasons: one reason is the more obvious patent issue: the Google smart phone OS has come under fire from competitors (mostly Apple) in a host of patent lawsuits, though none of them actually targeted Google itself: the main advantage of Android is its availability to any small manufacturer – which enabled the amazingly rich ecosystem that is the Android world, but its also its main disadvantage as competitors can target “small fish” for their patent extortion, companies that are too small to afford a real legal battle. Google wasn’t in a good position to help defend their OEMs or developers, and I believe this is what they were trying to do with their Nortel patents bids, that didn’t come through – but they had an ace in their sleeve: even as the Nortel business was going on, Google was probably already deep in negotiation with Motorola Mobility that hold a portfolio of around 18,000 patents and patent applications – compared with Nortel’s paltry 6,000 patents. With this arsenal, and once the deal comes through(1), expect Google to come out swinging.
But as I mentioned – this is only part of why I’m happy about this deal. The second, and likely more important reason as I will be looking for a new phone at about early 2012, is that I think Motorola Mobility is one of the best makers of Android running hardware – if not the best. They definitely have the market in keyboard slider phones, which is the kind I’m using. The problem is, I’m a power user – I like to use the latests and best software available and the whole point of having a small computer (read: user programmable device) in your pocket – is the ability to install and upgrade whenever something new comes out (about every couple of months). And this is where Motorola devices fail me: Motorola like to keep a lock down on any user modifications to the phone’s operating system and their devices are notoriously hard to mod – installing a new firmware on a Motorola phone is a dangerous game of “will it brick?”.
Motorola has come out with promises of freeing up the phone “bootloader” (the part of the phone’s firmware that makes sure you don’t install “unauthorized” software) but so far we haven’t see any results. I have hope that under the new ownership, Motorola Mobility developers will find it easier to keep to this promise and allow us power users to buy hardware on which we can run whatever Android-based operating system we want.
- supposedly by early 2012 – these things take time [↩]