Google’s intentions to buy Motorola are still being hotly debated in the tech community. Everybody and their mom is arguing about what’s going to happen next. However, very few people are talking about how it got to the point where Google felt the need to acquire such a huge company. Were Google and Motorola planning this for a while? Or was it quickly thrown together in response to the many patent lawsuits lobbed at Android?
On one side, you have people like Dan Lyons saying this was a carefully planned move that involved tricking Microsoft and Apple into overpaying for the Nortel patents. And on the other, we have those who agree with GigaOM’s report that the acquisition was hastily put together in order to keep Motorola’s patents away from Microsoft’s dirty hands.
Larry Page’s master plan
Do you remember those weird numbers Google used in the Nortel patent auction? Yes, those that included pi, the distance between the Earth and the Sun and other geeky mathematical equations. At this moment, nobody outside Google knows why the company did such a thing. Maybe they were just having fun. Or maybe it was part of an elaborate plan put together by Larry Page, suggests Newsweek’s Dan Lyons.
Dan believes Google was never really interested in buying Nortel’s patent portfolio. It would’ve been nice if they got it, but they were never really after them. (Kind of like what they did a few years ago with the spectrum bid). Instead, Google’s plan all along was to drive up the price of the patents, forcing Microsoft and Apple into paying a price way above the actual value. Those crazy geeky bids? They were just Google’s–or rather Larry’s–way of saying “f*%k you” to Microsoft and Apple.
While Microsoft and Apple were stepping on each other to get their hands on Nortel’s patents, Google got to play the victim and make both companies look like evil, anti-competitive bullies that want to kill Android. It turned the public’s opinion in Google’s favor, so that it could buy Motorola later on. After all, how else could Google defend itself against those big, bad companies that want to hurt Android? Game, set, match. Google wins.
At the end of the day, Microsoft and Apple paid $750,000 for each of Nortel’s patents, while Google paid $510,204 for each of Motorola’s patents and got a huge device manufacturer as a bonus. Which company do you think got the best deal?
If Dan’s theory makes the Motorola acquisition look like a carefully planned strategy, then GigaOM’s article paints it as an abrupt defensive move that saved Android’s life at the last minute. According to GigaOM, Microsoft was looking to acquire Motorola’s patent portfolio with the goal of further handicapping Android. Then about five weeks ago, Google swooped in and snatched Motorola right from under Microsoft’s nose. Coincidentally, Google lost the Nortel bid also about five weeks ago.
Whether it was Microsoft’s interest in Motorola, the lost Nortel auction or both, something could have very well forced Google to acquire Motorola. In that case, the whole thing looks more like an “oh crap” situation than the genius plan Dan Lyons describes. Even then, Google is getting a whole lot of patent protection and a manufacturing company that can build whatever Larry Page and Co. can dream up. That doesn’t sound so bad.
What do our dear readers think? Was the Motorola acquisition carefully planned or Google’s only option?