Motorola Nexus? No, that purchase was “mostly about the patents”

November 3, 2012
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Answering to various questions related to Google’s recent new product announcements, John Lagerling, Google’s director of business development for Android, revealed during an interview with The New York Times details about potential Motorola Nexus plans. Just don’t get too excited!

The executive talked mainly about Google’s new Nexus devices that were announced on Monday, via press releases instead of an actual media event that was canceled because of Hurricane Sandy, praising some of their features. Another important highlight for Lagerling is the Nexus 4’s entry price of $299 (that’s the full retail price for the 8GB Google Nexus 4), a price that he personally negotiated.

But here’s the bit that got our attention:

Q. Where does Motorola stand in all this? You haven’t used them yet for the Nexus program.

A. They stand where Sharp would stand, or Sony would stand or Huawei would stand. From my perspective as a partnership director, they are another partner. We are really walled between the Motorola team and the Android team. They would bid on doing a Nexus device just like any other company.

Q. So how does Google take advantage of the Motorola acquisition?

A. The way I understand it is, it’s mostly about the patents, the way you can sort of disarm this huge attack against Android. We talked about prices. There are players in the industry who were unhappy about more competitive pricing for the consumers. They want to keep the prices high, they want to force the price to be so high that operators have to subsidize the devices very highly. That’s not only the Cupertino guys but also for the guys up in Seattle. They want higher margins, they want to charge more for software.

We simply believe there’s a better way of doing it without extracting that much payment from end users, because there are other ways to drive revenues. Patents were used as a weapon to try to stop that evolution and scare people away from lower-cost alternatives. And I think with the Motorola acquisition we’ve shown we’re able to put skin in the game and push back.

In case you forgot, Google’s Motorola subsidiary that cost the company $12.5 billion is still bleeding money quarter after quarter. Users would have expected Google to at least launch one Nexus-branded device made by Motorola this year, or at least have the devices that were announced after the acquisition was finalized to run Google’s most recent Android OS version.

Neither of these things happened. And from the looks of it, a Motorola Nexus device is not yet a priority, as it was all about those patents.

During Google’s Q3 quarterly earnings report, company officials revealed that a Motorola Android device made to accommodate Google’s Android needs – therefore a Nexus device – may only be made at some point next year.

As for timely Jelly Bean updates, Google did introduce a cashback program for Motorola device owners that will not get a Jelly Bean upgrade for their smartphones and/or tablets. But it failed to offer actual timely updates for existing and new handsets.

Sure, Google did say that it won’t favor Motorola in any way now that it owns the communications device maker. And Google repeated these statements quite a few times, to make it clear for its other Android partners that it won’t screw them over by offering cheaper Motorola-made Android device to consumers that would run the latest Android versions ahead of the competition.

On that note, one could argue that Google managed to screw over most Android top device makers by releasing budget-friendly devices such as the Nexus 7 and the Nexus 4, but that’s a topic for another rainy day.

Getting back to Lagerling’s statements on the Motorola purchase, it appears that it’s very clear for the exec – and probably others like him that work for the company – that the move was important only for the current mobile patent wars. Or at least that’s what’s he’s being told.

And if you’d think that buying a trove of patents for a lot of money would help you in courts against Apple and Microsoft, well then guess again! Not only isn’t Google able to obtain any favorable rulings at this time, but the FTC seems more determined to investigate the way some of these patents are used against rivals in courts.

So how about designing some Motorola Nexus devices and launching them soon, you know, before Sharp or Sony will unveil their Nexuses?

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