EL SEGUNDO, CA --The Motorola Mobility acquisition puts Google Inc. in a stronger position in any potential patent dispute with Apple Inc. “From an intellectual property (IP) standpoint, the acquisition bolsters Google’s negotiating position with Apple, in the event that Apple goes after Android-based products the same way it did with Samsung in Europe,” said Francis Sideco, principal analyst, wireless communications, for IHS. “If nothing else, Google will be able to assert Motorola’s IP for the 3GPP and 3GPP2 cellphone specifications, which are used in both the iPhone and iPad.”
Motorola’s product development capabilities also may have made it an attractive acquisition target for Google. “Motorola has been closely following Google Android's operating system release schedule,” said Tina Teng, senior analyst, wireless communications, for IHS. “Whenever Google releases a new version of Android, Motorola almost immediately has a device ready with the latest revision of the software, reflecting the company’s prodigious product development capabilities.”
Google previously has used new HTC and Samsung products to demonstrate the latest capabilities of the Android operating system. For example, the HTC MyTouch and Samsung Nexus S served to show off the operating systems’ capabilities so other OEMs could follow the example. Now, Motorola is the company that will set the example.
“Motorola can serve as Google's product R&D department as Android spreads into new markets,” Teng added. “Motorola has engineering expertise in a wide range of products where Android will be used, including set-top boxes and televisions. The addition of Motorola’s engineering and intellectual property will accelerate Android’s time-to-market in these areas and potentially revitalize the Google TV business, which so far has met with little success.”
The acquisition could prompt some Android licenses to increase their focus on alternative operating systems, such as Windows Phone. “Although Google has said Motorola will continue to operate as a separate company, this development has to raise questions among the other Android licensees as to the level of support they will get from Google in the future. Even before this announcement, Motorola already had gotten preferential treatment, receiving first access to Honeycomb on the tablet side. While it’s unlikely that the other licensees will abandon Android, they could shift their priorities and focus more R&D toward Windows Phone from Microsoft.”
Motorola ranked sixth in the global smartphone business in the second quarter. The company held a 4 percent share of global unit shipments. Company shipments amounted to 4.4 million, up 7.3 percent from 4.1 million in the first quarter.
Since hitting bottom in the first quarter of 2009, Motorola has been experiencing nearly uninterrupted quarterly growth in smartphone shipments. Quarterly company shipments have expanded sequentially for the past nine consecutive quarters, with the exception of the first quarter of 2011, as shown in the figure attached.
Motorola once was the world’s No. 2 cellphone maker. As recently as the first quarter of 2007, Motorola was the world’s second-largest cellphone shipper after Nokia on the strength of its stylish RAZR product line. However, because of its difficulties in offering compelling new models following the success of the RAZR, Motorola’s share of global cellphone shipments went into decline. Following a precipitous and sustained drop in shipments and market share, the company made a strategic decision to shift its focus away from low-margin, mass-market cellphones and toward higher-profit smartphones based on the Android operating system, like the Droid and Backflip.
Motorola Inc.’s XOOM media tablet introduced early this year represented the first legitimate match for Apple Inc.’s iPad 3G, in terms of features and pricing. The IHS iSuppli Teardown Analysis service’s dissection of the device determined the Motorola XOOM carries a bill of materials (BOM) of $359.92, based on pricing in March 2011, compared to approximately $320 for a 3G iPad with 32GB of NAND flash memory, based on pricing from April 2010.