Googorola: all about patents, but is it good for Android?

Motorola Xoom
Google doesn't want Motorola for its devices

Some will call it Googorola. Others, Motogoogle, or maybe Moogle. But whatever you call it, Google's acquisition of Motorola Mobility is the biggest thing to happen in mobile since Nokia climbed into bed with Ballmer.

So what's going on?

It's all about the patents, it seems. nailed it two weeks ago:

"With 17,000 patents, Motorola Mobility is the best mobile partner Google's Android could ever wish for as industry hostilities heat up... not only does Motorola have far more patents than its nearest competitors, [but] it appears to have more of the key patents that may help the Android camp in a battle against Apple."

Android has become something of a patent battleground - Eric Schmidt was getting annoyed about firms who "are not responding with innovation [but] with lawsuits" last month - and I'm wondering if the Motorola deal was what Schmidt meant when he said that "we will make sure they don't lose, then" when asked about HTC's patent battle with Apple.

I bet he was.

So where will this all end up?

Some are more equal than others

I think Google has two bright ideas here. One, it can better protect Android from the legal assaults of rivals. And two, it will drive all kinds of Android development. One, I'd agree with. Two, I'm not so sure about. I suspect it's more likely to drive Android manufacturers into the arms of other OSes.

As Horace Dediu points out, we've seen this happen before with Symbian. Some partners were more equal than others, and Nokia had the lion's share. "A licensor that is also a licensee makes other licensees uncomfortable," Dediu says. "The supplier is also a competitor. This is classic channel conflict and never ends well."

Maybe Dediu is wrong, and maybe Googorola will be the exception that proves the rule. Maybe Motorola will have exactly the same status as any other Android licensee, or Google will use it as a skunkworks to create cool things that every Android manufacturer will be able to take advantage of.

But I very much doubt it, and I very much doubt that champagne corks are popping in the boardrooms of HTC, Samsung and other firms who've invested heavily in Android even if they're saying they're happy with the deal publicly.

Google always does what's good for Google - and now that it's in the handset business, what's good for Google isn't necessarily what's good for other Android manufacturers.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.