Google has already made massive inroads into the smartphone market with its Android operating system. From a standing start in 2007, almost half of all smartphones shipped in the second quarter of 2011 ran on Android. But it's not done yet - its $12.5bn (£7.6bn) acquisition of Motorola's handset, tablet and "converged media device" business Motorola Mobility brings hardware to match the software..
Motorola hasn't exactly set the world on fire with handset designs in recent years, but Google is more interested in its technology war chest, comprising more than 20,000 patents. Previously Google had only had 2,000 mobile phone-related patents, which left it at a major disadvantage when developing new products. Patent infringement lawsuits are becoming increasingly prevalent, as it becomes more difficult to develop new models without infringing another manufacturer’s intellectual property.
Not surprisingly, Apple has been particularly litigious against Android, taking aim at its licensees including HTC and Samsung in the courts. Google has described this as a "a hostile, organised campaign... waged through bogus patents". But, as mobile analyst Ken Dulaney at technology specialists Gartner notes, the substantial patent position should provide some protection. "They are getting hammered by everyone suing them, and they didn't have much of a defence", he said.
While the acquisition of patents looks a sensible rationale for the deal, there worries that the takeover places Google in direct competition with its own Android licensees, which include LG and Sony Ericsson. However, all responded positively to the announcement, which they see as a move to "defend" the Android operating system that has been key to their recent success and forms a major component of their product development roadmaps.
That said, some noted that Google's move into handset manufacture could actually provide a boost for