Analyst: Google eyes Apple's iOS model with $12.5B Motorola deal

But others see the proposed acquisition as patent defense against Apple, Microsoft

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"Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google's patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies," wrote Page.

In a conference call early Monday, Google's top lawyer, David Drummond -- who two weeks ago blasted rivals, among them Apple, for waging what he called a "hostile, organized campaign against Android" using "bogus patents" -- said much the same.

Florian Muller, a German patent activist and analyst, credited the patent part of the deal for driving the acquisition price to $12.5 billion, a 63% premium over Motorola's stock price at Friday's closing.

"There's no question that the purchase price is to some degree related to Motorola Mobility's patents, but perhaps to a lesser degree than most people think," Mueller said in a Monday entry on his FOSS Patents blog.

Gottheil, though, claimed that the deal was primarily driven by the patent acquisition. "It helps Google reassure its licensees that it's playing the patent game, too," said Gottheil. "It takes the patent problems off the table, which is worth quite a bit to Google. That helps their licensees as much as it helps them."

In the end, two of the three analysts said the acquisition was about more than just patents, and that the impact will be far-reaching.

"We're looking at a deal that would fundamentally change Google's Android-related business model," said Mueller. "The price Google agreed to pay is not reflective of the value of Motorola Mobility as a stand-alone business: That's the kind of price paid by a strategic buyer who plans to use the acquisition target as leverage for its (Google's) own core business."

White echoed that, arguing that the battle outside the court is the most important here. "Google is saying 'We are afraid of what Apple can become, so we need a hardware platform,'" said White.

And the direct impact on Apple?

"Does it threaten Apple? No," said Gottheil. "At least not the iPhone and the iPad. What Apple may be wondering today is how the acquisition could affect their future 'next big things,' like set-top boxes that integrate mobile and home PCs with televisions.

"But I don't think they're losing any sleep over it," he added.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more articles by Gregg Keizer.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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