Google's purchase of Motorola Mobility
Aug 15th 2011, 19:56 by L.S. | LONDON
SHOCK. Bombshell. Incredible. Even seasoned observers of the technology industry could not hide their surprise when it was announced on Monday, August 15th, that Google, the online giant, would buy Motorola Mobility, a maker of handsets and other electronic devices, for a whopping $12.5 billion. The deal not only comes as a surprise, it will have a big impact on the mobile industry, too.
For starters, the merger is very good news for the shareholders of Motorola Mobility, among them Carl Icahn, the activist investor. The offer—$40 a share in cash—is 63% above the closing price of Motorola Mobility’s shares on Friday. It is unlikely that shareholders would have got such a price on the open market any time soon. Although Motorola Mobility, which was only spun-off from Motorola in January, has staged something of a turnaround, it is still too small to compete with much bigger rivals such as Apple, Nokia and Samsung. Since March its shares had been trading below their issue price of $25.
As for Google, although it will spend about one-third of its cash on the biggest acquisition in its 13-year history, it will also get a lot: plenty of ammunition in the ongoing battle between mobile platforms. Android, Google’s operating system for smartphones and other mobile devices, has taken the world by storm. In America it now powers nearly 40% of new smartphones, outdoing the platforms of Apple and RIM, the maker of BlackBerry smartphones. Worldwide more than 150m Android devices have been activated, a number that is growing by more than half a million every day.
Yet the Android “ecosystem”, as geeks call it, is also facing growing challenges. For one, the operating system has yet to make much headway in the market for computing tablets, mainly because Android devices are still not as user-friendly as Apple’s iPad. More importantly, although Google does not charge for Android, it is becoming increasingly costly for handset-makers—because rivals claim it infringes on intellectual property owned by other firms. In early 2010 HTC, one of the leading vendors of Android devices, agreed to pay royalties to Microsoft for the use of its patents ($5 per device, according to some estimates). And in July Apple won a legal victory against HTC in a patent infringement suit, which could lead to even higher payments.
Taking over Motorola will help Google to overcome both of these problems. Owning a handset-maker allows the firm to integrate software and hardware more smoothly. It should not only be able to deliver more competitive Android tablets, but speed up the development of other sorts of consumer electronics (Motorola Mobility also sells television set-top boxes). In addition, Google will gain control of Motorola’s huge portfolio of intellectual property, which includes 17,000 patents worldwide. This will give Google—and, indirectly, makers of Android devices—a much better bargaining position in current and future legal battles, which include litigation brought by Oracle, a software firm, over Android’s use of Java, a software technology.
Although Motorola Mobility’s shares soared close to the price offered by Google, suggesting that the market thinks that the takeover will succeed, it could still hit snags. Another suitor may emerge, possibly Oracle. Antitrust authorities on both sides of the Atlantic, which already have Google in their sights, will certainly take a close look, although it seems unlikely that they will block the merger. More fundamentally, the acquisition could discourage other handset-makers from using Android for their devices if they worry that Motorola will gain an unfair advantage. To allay such fears, Google has said that it will run Motorola as a separate business and that it will not change in any way how it manages Android.
Even if the merger, as so many before it, turns out to be a costly mistake, it is another sign that the market for smartphones and other mobile devices will end up looking different from the personal-computer industry. Whereas with PCs operating systems were developed by one set of companies (mostly Microsoft) and the machines by another (Dell, HP, Acer), mobile devices seem to demand a deeper integration of software and hardware, delivered by a single firm. This has always been Apple’s approach. HP also has its own mobile operating system, WebOS.
Google now seems to be going down this path, and others may follow suit. After the announcement of Google’s takeover of Motorola Mobility, analysts began speculating that Microsoft might now buy RIM or, more likely, Nokia, which has already agreed to use Microsoft’s Windows Phone as the software to power its next generation of smartphones.
By EVELYN M. RUSLI and CLAIRE CAIN MILLER
With its largest acquisition ever, Google, the maker of the Android mobile operating system, would become a full-fledged cellphone manufacturer, in competition with Apple.歌(Google Inc., GOOG)同意以125億美元收購摩托羅拉移動公司(Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc., MMI)﹐這標誌著摩托羅拉移動獨立運營的終結﹐也意味著智能手機市場即將重塑。
谷 歌通過向手機製造商免費授權Android移動平台實現了Android系統的普及﹐現在又通過收購摩托羅拉移動進軍硬件市場﹐並可能以更優惠的條件對競 爭對手蘋果公司(Apple Inc.)形成挑戰﹐但同時也會給三星電子(Samsung Electronics Co., 005930.SE)、宏達國際電子股份有限公司(HTC Corp., 2498.TW, 簡稱﹕宏達國際)和LG電子(LG Electronics Inc., 066570.SE)等合作夥伴帶來問題。
更 根本的是﹐該交易意味著移動市場競爭的進一步升級。蘋果公司已經在執行一些人所謂的“圍牆花園”(walled garden)戰略﹐經營軟件、移動應用以及iPhone和iPad等移動設備。今年早些時候﹐微軟(Microsoft Corp.)與諾基亞(Nokia Corp.)達成廣泛協議﹐作為全球頂尖手機生產商的諾基亞將在智能手機中搭載Windows移動操作系統。
谷 歌預計在2012年年初完成這項交易。目前該交易已獲得雙方董事會的批准。據《華爾街日報》(The Wall Street Journal)報導﹐該交易包含25億美元的逆向解約賠償。由於谷歌已經引起美國司法部(Department of Justice)反壟斷部門的注意﹐這樁交易的龐大規模使人們不禁擔心它的監管審批前景。
谷歌一直被認為在無線和電訊專利方面比較薄弱。 最近﹐在爭奪北電網絡有限公司(Nortel Networks co., NRTLQ)專利權的過程中﹐谷歌又敗給了蘋果和微軟等科技巨頭。同時﹐谷歌與微軟還一直就專利權招標問題大打口水仗﹐凸現出該市場對此類專利資產的競爭 日趨激烈。
Evercore Partners分析師Alkesh Shah表示﹐谷歌的一大短板就是它只擁有數千個權利﹐而且面臨大量的專利權訴訟﹔而摩托羅拉的專利權組合為抵御這些訴訟構築了一道強有力的防線。
谷 歌將把摩托羅拉移動作為單獨業務運營。摩托羅拉移動還將是谷歌Android系統的授權使用方。至於該交易將對谷歌與其他Android合作夥伴的關係產 生什麼影響﹐目前還不而知。這些合作夥伴包括宏達國際電子、LG電子和三星電子。但谷歌在新聞稿中說﹐不會有什麼不同。
另 外﹐對Research in Motion Ltd. (RIMM, RIM.T)和諾基亞來說﹐這樁交易可能是喜憂參半的。雖然谷歌與摩托羅拉合併會對這些困境中的智能手機生產商構成更大的威脅﹐但同時也會提升RIM與諾基亞專利權的價值。此外﹐這兩家公司都不使用Android﹐所以即使谷歌收回Android﹐它們也不會受到影響。