Aug 18 AT 3:41 PM Alberto Vildosola 37 Comments

Google/Motorola acquisition: Defensive move or evil genius plan?


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?

Playing defense

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?

Alberto is a college student living somewhere between Miami, Sarasota and the World Wide Web. Although a former iPhone owner, Alberto is now a proud Android enthusiast. You can follow Alberto on Twitter and Google+ for his thoughts unworthy of an article.

    Most Tweeted This Week


    I think it was a mixture of both. With a little more planning. Because the timing was perfect. I wonder if they also knew Webos was falling out of the picture.. Awfully close

    • elijahblake

      anyone that reads blogs could see that WebOS was failing just like we can see that blackberry AND windows phone is going down as well.. Nokia will NOT save Windows Phone…

      • Geniusdog254

        No, Nokia won’t save Windows Phone. But let’s face it, Microsoft has the resources to pour as much money as it wants into this product, and it won’t just let it die. When was the last time you saw Microsoft do something like that?

        I rest my case.

        • Tangent

          The last time I saw Microsoft do that was with the Zune. Before that it was the Kin smartphone.As of 2012 they will be abandoning their eReader.

          Microsoft ditching failing products isn’t as rare as you seem to think…

        • frankie m

          Kin… that’s about it though. Look at Bing. It’s not even profitable yet.

  • codesplice

    I don’t see why it couldn’t be a bit of both – both a defensive move and an evil genius plan.

    I see it as something that needed to be done to protect Android, but it also looks to have been executed in a pretty smart way.

  • Jess Blanchard

    It’s like an episode of Arrested Development–everything just sort of fell together in a manner a touch too clever.

    • Futureboy

      Cue quirky music.

      VO: On the next Googarola…

      …and Larry and the rest of the Google team together enjoyed the cathartic burning of the Moto-stand.

      (Roll Credits)

  • praeivis

    Google – Motorola deal was desperated not planed action. And doubtfull it will help much.

    • Jimpsonweed

      Someone took all their stupid-pills for a month in one go…

  • T1392

    Its up in the air but I beleave google has some evil plans Indeed to use Motorola’s patents and hardware as well. Hoping for Motorola Nexus Tab with ICS that’s not rushed & can really compete with ipad. Motorola’s hardware is built to last and Google needs to take advantage.

  • Interpol91

    The creative minds at Google more than likely already had it laid out. Acquiring Motorola Mobility was important and justified given the patent wars. If I ever see Dan Lyons I’m going to buy him a nice cold beer :)

  • Xoldier

    When I found out that Google declined to jointly bid on Nortel’s patent portfolio, I was absolutely sure that there is something much bigger Google has its sights on.

  • Ray

    When has Google ever done something “desperate” or “unplanned”? I’m not saying everything they’ve done has gone according to plan… But child please…. Don’t be naive. They’ve positioned themselves on a blue ocean with Google +, all while people quibbled over their likelihood of success at “a major risk confronting Facebook on their own turf. I doubt anyone at MS, Apple,or Facebook are laughing right now at Google desperately flailing about the patent war zone.

  • Ed

    My take on it is that Google had a plan, and stuck to it. I’m wondering now who will buy Kodak or their patents. Anyone care to speculate?


  • Paul grocock

    Off course it was planned just like a carefully mastered chess game. The next 12 months will be crucial in the Ios vs android wars, but I predict that our democratic right to choose what our devices can and will do will prevail over any logic in a system that works perfectly as long as you do , and only do what Apple say you can do with it. I rarely use my MBP or Ipad, although flawlessly. Preferring my Asus eee pad transformer because over all versatility.

  • Tran Lang

    I bet that they have carefully planned before and just wait for the right timing to announce. Come on, what do you think? They’re giant companies. You think they do big merge like that without a plan at all? I don’t think so. In this acquisition, Google has played a very good defensive strategy. It’s a defensive plan but it also offends its enemies. If we talk in martial arts world, it is a “defense but offense”. Nice play, Google. Larry has slapped in Bill’s and Steve’s faces and shouted out: “Here, go eat sh*t!”

  • frankie m

    HUGE Google fan since gmail-invite days
    Android user since 2009

    Google and Motorola have been in bed since the Droid 1. It rocketed Android into competition. They are the only company to launch two revisions of the OS first – 2.0 and 3.0(exclude HTC because they launched the first device, period). When Motorola Mobility was separated from the rest of the company it was basically a big ol neon sign saying “For Sale!”. I wouldn’t doubt it if they were planning the acquisition since before the separation.

    I do think it authentically levels the three-way playing field between Microsoft, Apple and Google, because the first two can literally make anything they want because of sheer capital and influence.

  • old11greg11

    I say both. I think Google went out to as many patent holders that were relevant and would talk to them and try to keep them all hush hush. Then started making offers knowing that Apple and microsoft couldn’t buy them all and wouldn’t find out about them all.

  • dewmc73

    I think that it could be a little of both. I dont think its all about phone patents as every seems to scream out about. The number of patents looks great but I dont think that all of them are just for phones. My opinion is about moving Android forward as much as it is about the patents to help protect it currently.I look at it as they need a manufacturing arm that they could control with the likes of GoogleTV. They cant keep depending on 3rd party manufacturers because it seems like they just keep over pricing the products out of any possible wide spread adoption. If they are willing to start putting stuff out there at lower prices that they can control and get higher adoption rates then it will in the long run expand GoogleTV and Android.

    Remember they had also bought a company with DVR software experience, so the ideas were already out there. This could be part of that bigger plan. I also read a interesting story about how if that is where they are headed with set top boxes and possibly DVR that Tivo might be a interesting purchase in the near future because of the DVR patents they hold. I think that there is a lot of food for thought of what all is possible with having a hardware side outside of the phone aspect.

  • join the london riots, welcome to rotten uk

    google is crap, motorola is crap
    go figure

    • Cockerney

      And your life is crap so you post your crap here. Remember, this was the very best moment in your entire life and it’s all downhill from here. ;-)

  • Harad Al Salami

    I don’t know if I’d call it evil genius, but I’m really not sure what else to call it. I’ve been watching all the patent activity lately, and as a small Android developer, I was hoping Google would do something soon. It seems like whenever they do something big, they always seem to work things to make some other company (usually Microsoft) look like idiots in the process as a bonus. It’s usually kind of funny to watch. In this case, I watched them buy 1000 IBM patents after losing the Nortel bid, and make a few public statements about how patent abuse is bad. It all seemed sort of weak. Then, BOOM. They buy Motorola. So… They paid exactly the same per-patent price they would have paid with their Nortel bid, and got many more patents and a big hardware company in the deal. They caused MS and Apple to team up and blow wads of money for an anti-competitive purpose, making them look like idiots, and getting the attention of the DoJ. If it was intentional, it was a stroke of genius. If I were Larry Page, I would laugh an evil laugh at some point.

  • teecruz

    Why can’t we be happy it just happen. (though, reading over this article boosted my ego a bit.)
    bottom line: Google, #Winning!

    top line: anybody who speaks against Google, get outta here. -.-

    • teecruz

      Come again, did you ever think:
      maybe, Google was in a big oh-oh movement. (I mean they have been, Microsoft & Apple have been trying and trying to tear them down)
      so THAN, they came up with the idea of the mathematics.
      thus, Larry’s way of a a f*ck you within a f*ck you to all the Haters.

      Therefore, SCORE!
      Like I said: Google, #Winning! :]

  • Nider

    It just coincidence..
    . .i believe, Google have more cash on its pocket to acquire Moto than MS..
    . .MS wont give its best deal to Moto, MS is on its way to devalue Nokia and acquire it.

  • Droidfan

    A couple of weeks ago I was reading a story balling on about Android’s sucky patent attack problem. My comment in response to the author’s desperation. Google should just buy Motorola. Save them from themselves. And kick the shit out of Apple & MS.

    I still feel the same way. Make Motorola SING. And bitch slap Apple and MS and Oracle and any other patent troll….so flippin hard and often….that they will think twice before they start picking on the new kid on the block. That would really…NOT BE EVIL.

  • dee

    i really wanna believe that ths was a plan all along. To look pathetic and like your losing but in reality you just wanted the competition to file more lawsuits and spend more money on patents that they think they can oppress you with. All the while you had to plans to buy one of the largest patents portfolios for mobile. I think google should completely blindside everyone and buy RIM, just to put a golden nail in the coffin.

  • Mark

    Who gives a shit? Unless you own a stock in either companies or work for any of them, no need to lose sleep over it.

  • Cha Chi

    I think, like others have said, that it was too perfectly timed to be an accident. Seems more like the famous Sun Tzu strategy, “Look weak when you are strong and strong when you are weak”.

    Losing Nortel made them appear weak, as well as complaining over how unfair it all is and while Apple, MS, et al. were busy patting themselves on the back and in MS’ case gloating over getting the Nortel patents, Google closed a far better purchase in secret.

    As for how it affects the entire Android ecosystem, I’m not entirely sure it is good. MS isn’t wrong when they say there is a good reason to look at WP7 for all of the Android manufacturers. However, I think Googarola has a chance to drive the Android peripherals and GoogleTV and gaining Motorola’s experience in getting a phone on all of the carriers can’t hurt the chances of Nexus doing so even if it is made by another company. Time will tell.

  • Derek

    I think M$ will end up getting the last laugh. For every smartphone that the new Google/Moto makes they still have to pay M$ a $15 licensing fee. HTC, Samsung, they all pay it.

  • cat condos

    I do not disagree with this blog post

  • cheapest rate

    Thank goodness some bloggers can write. Thank you for this writing