back to article Google's Moto move spells iPhone doom

Mergers and acquisitions used to be how a company bought revenue, customers, or cool technology. In the mobile world, it's increasingly a way to buy defensive patents. This was clear in Google's $12.5bn acquisition of Motorola Mobility, and it will unfortunately fuel many of the strategies Apple, Google, and others employ to …


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  1. Dirk Vandenheuvel


    Motorolo's patents are quite old and almost useles for tablets.

  2. Steve Crook

    The sooner we get back to competing on product quality, innovation, and price, the better

    Amen to that brother, but I'm not holding my breath.

  3. ThomH Silver badge

    I don't buy it

    Despite the two competing and contradictory opinion pieces on El Reg today — claiming variously that Apple is finished or that Google wasted their money on irrelevant IP from a loss-making phone manufacturer — I think this is largely a sideshow.

    The iPod showed that Apple can hold a direct-to-consumer market against a thousand competitors even when they organise under a common banner. They managed to create an aura of quality while being sufficiently competitive on price.

    I think they're having a much harder time in mobile because selling to the consumer through networks is a lot more difficult when they don't want to give the networks any control. In that environment it's not surprising that manufacturers who are more willing to balance consumer experience against network demands have been able to sell in a lot more volume. Those volumes also become a benefit for all Android users, creating more interest in the top tier, unencumbered handsets.

    That said, while the article is right that it's disingenuous to say that Apple are really winning the war with Android because they suck up so much of the profit in the handset arena, the fact that Google and others are also reaping significant funds doesn't seem to put Apple in a precarious position from where I'm sitting. Two segmented areas of profit are even less of a zero-sum game than most of the markets that the tech press likes to report as such.

    I have to admit to still being uncertain exactly why Google have bought Motorola, given their unwillingness to get engaged in legal proceedings against their licensees to date, but I seriously doubt this spells doom for the iPhone. My expectation remains the same: that Apple will end up in more of a Mac situation than an iPod situation, profitably reaping a high-value niche.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "My expectation remains the same: that Apple will end up in more of a Mac situation than an iPod situation, profitably reaping a high-value niche"

      My thoughts exactly. This will happen with both the iPhone and iPad, though not at the same time.

      Not sure why this has not happened with the iPod - iTunes, probably.

    2. Thomas 4

      I don't understand.

      How can you patent innovation, pricing and product quality?

      1. Ru

        In the US? Trivially.

        The requests are already pending.

    3. Marvin the Martian

      And what about the old vs young customer argument?

      I also don't buy much of the arguments, as pointed out by ThomH.

      And saying that Android will win because thats what the young people buy and theyll be around for longer -- thats just rubbish. Exhibit A: MySpace vs Facebook... the second was the grownup place, the first disappeared. Exhibit B: mass market vs luxury cars... Mercedes and their ilk are bought by older men, as younger people dont have the cash -- but when they have the cash they dont stick by toyota or vauxhall because that's where they started, do they?

    4. Adam T
      Thumb Up

      totally agree

      Nicely put, Thom. They should cut and paste that into a new article, seeing as they're in the mood for selling all views this week.

    5. Armando 123
      Thumb Up

      Well put

      Keep in mind that part of the success of the iPod was that it was dead easy to use. Senior citizens with absolutely zero aptitude for technology could figure out how to use it and how to get music onto it. It wasn't cheap, but it didn't feel cheap and was a great design: simple, looked good, and felt good. Apple went into the market and ran roughshod over, first at the high end and then into the less profitable low end, with iTunes and the iTunes Store as its secret weapon.

      The phone and tablet markets are different, but I suspect Apple's approach -- making the whole widget to provide you a solution -- may work here as well. The PC is about the only consumer electronic device I can think of where you don't get the whole thing from one company. Microsoft makes the software, someone else makes the hardware, and the enhancements/applications are made by MS or third parties. Using PCs always feels a bit half-assed to me, whereas Macs, whatever their shortcomings, at least have reasons behind the shortcomings. I might disagree, but there seems to be a logic there rather than a hack.

      We'll see how it plays out, of course, but I suspect that Google made a mistake here. MS took a few years to get the idea of hardware/software down in the previous decade ... and even then, they have a high return rate on things XBox and the Danger fiasco ... and MS had been making customer-facing software for a lot longer than Google has.

      Either way, I'm grabbing some popcorn and an adult beverage. This should be good; certainly more interesting than baseball or NASCAR.

      1. OrsonX
        Thumb Down

        more interesting than NASCAR

        "I wonder which way the next corner will be..., oh left,....and another left...., and..."

        I love motorsport, but clearly I am missing something w.r.t. NASCAR?

    6. Paul Shirley

      pending applications old?

      7.5k pending applications are 'quite old'?

      That's a pretty novel definition of 'old' you're using ;)

    7. Seanie Ryan

      article misses so much it scary

      kids "cheap/free" grow up to be the soccer dads and then want the "cool" phone instead of being seen as Mr Cheapo Dad

      Google have NO experience in dealing directly with support/sales issues with the general public with respects to hardware. What makes you think that they know what way to go on this and wont mess it up?

      What about all the Google 'partners' who woke up Monday to find out that they are now Google Competitors. Direct competitors ! If I was HTC/Samsung I would be worried that future versions will be X months behind what google release on their own phones, Or what if they decide in a year that they no longer provide Android to third parties? I'd be looking for a plan B pretty quick. And remember , I have just spent the last year or 2 giving them all my sales data and now they are my competitors !!

      iPhone is about the whole eco-system apple built. Google might not be able to replicate that fully.

      They are a copy-cat company in everything but search/ads. I cant see how acquiring Moto will change this.

      1. eulampios

        Everyone is a copy-cat

        >>They are a copy-cat company in everything but search/ads. I cant see how acquiring Moto will change this.

        So you think that Apple is not a copy-cat company? What about OS X? Isn't it a derivative of BSD Unix? (whereas, the Linux and GNU are not derivatives but clones) Do you know how much code is stolen by Apple from FreeBSD project et al. ? BSD license permits such theft .

        When a terminal is fired on every iMac or MacBook , guess what would the command "echo $SHELL" tell you? , exactly: " /bin/bash ", that is the GNU Bourn Again Shell. That is what pretty much all GNU/Linux systems have by default.

        1. Charles Manning


          Legal; copying is not theft.

          But you miss the whole point. OSX has very little to do with the kernel underneath.

          Even though I'm a kernel developer, I don't think the kernel gives OSX its advantage.

          Apple chose xBSD because it is solid and provided the best option at the time.

          The part of OSX that people interact with could have been built on top of any kernel: Linux, xBSD or even Windows. The kernel is irrelevant. That is where Apple add value.

          While there certainly are people at Apple that work in kernel land, they are few. This is not Apple's competitive advantage.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Two different stories on the reg

    There are two different stories on the reg right now. One says the purchase of Moto was a big failure and the IP wont do jack all. The other is more positive and says it's going to put an end to the iphone.

    This isn't the first time I've seen this kind of thing happen on the reg. Seen it a few times lately on different topics.

  5. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Flywithandrew

    Link bait

    Wow, talk about link baiting! Title: "google's moto move spells iPhone doom!" The article proceeds to detail the author's best guesses as to future risks to iPhone market share, none of which seem related to the moto purchase. He concludes by stating that patents - google's alleged motivation for buying moto - don't matter after all. Slapping that sensational title on this this piece is like putting lipstick on a pig.

  7. Turtle


    Florian Mueller points out that Motorola's patents didn't protect it from patent suits by Apple and Microsoft. Why will those patents be more efficacious for Google? And it would seem that some of Motorola's best patents are FRAND-encumbered and therefore not powerful weapons.

    Care to respond?

    Thanks in advance!

  8. arglborps
    Thumb Down

    Owns the future market?

    Kids buy Android, so Google owns the future mobile market?

    How does your head feel so tightly inserted up your ass? If anyone then PARENTS buy cheap Android phones for their kids, DUH.

    So here's the logic of our economic mastermind: Kids buy cheap shit, because they don't have much money, so cheap shit owns ALL future markets. Yep. Mercedes, BMW, Gucchi, PRADA, Apple, Lacoste all doomed, because THE FUTURE IS CHEAP SHIT!

    Oh my god why didn't we see this coming?

  9. Michael Hoffmann

    Which is it now?

    Wasn't it an article only today on El Reg that spoke about how, yes yes, Androids are shipping like there's no tomorrow but they're not actually *selling*? Or am I reading too many tech sites and can't keep them straight anymore?

    Apparently those precious Androids are starting to fill up the warehouses, whereas Apple can't keep up with demand.

    I'm no fanboi arguing one way or the other - I would just really, really love to get some basic, straight facts and not the biased opinion-mongering from both sides.

    If anything I expect some form of duopoly to emerge, with mass versus boutique appeal. Yeah, Apple might have to get used to not be the highest or second highest valued company on the play. As if that would have outlived Saint Jobs anyway.

  10. azimutha

    Are you kidding?

    Too bad Motorola's patents are mostly old and mostly worthless. Neither they nor Google have much to stack against any one of their competitors, let alone all of them. Yeah, maybe like the Microsoft of old, Google will get away shoving crap down the throats of those too cheap or dumb to know any better, but I'd still put my money on Apple.

  11. MacRat

    Strange Kids

    "kids buy Android ("It's cheap!")"

    You hang around strange kids.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Don't have a problem

      Since both are opinion pieces not News I have no problem. Having differing views is what makes life interesting.

      1. Thought About IT

        Inconsistent though

        Wish they'd take the same approach to climate change.

        1. Ru

          Maybe no-one offered?

          Maybe you should start hawking your own balancing opinions to them.

        2. ratfox Silver badge

          There's only one linkbait side to climate change

          But on this issue, both sides are linkbait, thus the two contradictory op-eds...

    2. Gordon 10 Silver badge


      As far a I can see here in the UK most kids and especially girls own blackberries. Not Androids.

      1. Armando 123


        "As far a I can see here in the UK most kids and especially girls own blackberries. Not Androids."

        Yes, but those BB owners will be in jail for the rioting for, what, two weeks before they're free to cash their unemployment checks for a new phone.

        1. Yet Another Commentard


          "Yes, but those BB owners will be in jail for the rioting for, what, two weeks before they're free to cash their unemployment checks for a new phone."

          Cheques. The word, on this side of the pond, is cheques. I have just been to check.

          1. jonathanb Silver badge

            Re: Check?

            Actually, unemployment payments come in the form of Giros, not Cheques.

            1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

              Actually, Actually

              They are more usually paid direct into your bank account

            2. NogginTheNog


              I think most of them come by BACS nowadays...?

      2. Neily-boy


        That's the one truth that no one is ever supposed to repeat on technology websites!

        It's not Android. It's not iOS. Don't mention it - You'll look like a dork!

        You know how everyone wants to be in with the cool kids at school, and if anyone infers that the in-crowd are anything less than amazing, they are shunned and ridiculed?

        Once you've left school, you soon realise that those same "cool" kids were actually arseh*les and the not so cool ones, in retrospect, turned out to be the people you most admired. Yes, that's right, the ones that were capable of free thought, couldn't give a f*ck what the latest trainers were that everyone was wearing, and ended up getting the good jobs and tidy, funny, wives/husbands/partners.

        What I'm saying is let the cool kids go on about how amazing their fancy, High-Top Nike Air Jordans are and you just carry on wearing your bog standard, comfortable Adidas Sambas. Let history be the judge of which was cooler.

    3. Arkasha

      you missed the point

      It doesn't matter if parents or kids buy the stuff. When those kids grow up they will only have known Android and will continue to buy it.

    4. Annihilator


      "Second, it's critical to remember who buys Android devices versus iOS devices: kids buy Android ("It's cheap!") while adults largely buy iOS ("Pricey, but it makes me cool with the other soccer dads!"). Guess which group will be buying devices long into the future?"

      This assumes that kids will never ever changed their mind and the market won't change at all. As kids, we were all buying Nokia. I don't see many of those kids that are now grown-ups sticking with their 3310s.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        When I was a teenager/young man I owned a Ford Cortina. That was all my dad was willing to give me to tool around in and I had no money to buy something better. It was pretty what I knew about cars until my late mid 20s.

        Now I have a Ferrai in the garage.

        You notion is flawed.

        As someone else pointed out, my daughter had a 3310 - she uses an iPhone now.

        The yough market is (a) fickle and (b) selling them something is no guarantee of keeping them as repeat customers when their tastes become more varied and discerning.



      2. Pete 2 Silver badge

        Who buys Android devices?

        > Second, it's critical to remember who buys Android devices versus iOS devices: kids buy Android ("It's cheap!") while adults largely buy iOS ("Pricey, but it makes me cool with the other soccer dads!"). Guess which group will be buying devices long into the future?

        You jest, surely?

        My (admittedly slight) experience of the market is that i<products> are bought by people who like the style and feel this is an important part, or the MOST important part of owning a phone/tablet. Those people tend to the 20-somethings, singles who have plenty of monkey, or children who have wheedled one out of their parents. For the rest, most adults just don't have the time or inclination to need, want or use most of the features of an i<thing>.

        Sure, I've got a smart phone (Android). Do I use any of it's features? Not in the slightest - it makes calls and that's all I want. Why did I get one? Simply because when my last contract expired, Android phones were the same monthly price as my old phone, so all the "smart" stuff was essentially free.

        Would I have have paid for any of it? No, since I don't use it, it has no value to me. I would suspect most adults who have grown out of bragging about their possessions are in the same position: offer extra features at no extra cost and they will say "what the hell, I'll take it". Call it a value-add and bump up the price and they'll leave it on the sales counter.

      3. Arkasha

        I never said...

        that Matt Asay's view of long term sales of Android was right. In fact, as someone else pointed out, trying to predict sales more than a year in to the future is probably folly.

        I was merely saying that if you grew up with something you're more likely to buy it in the future. I don't think cars are a good analogy as they're too much of an investment compared to a phone that you probably get free on a contract. It certainly applies to most cheap things from brands of food through to smartphones and beyond.

        And as for the comment about owning a Nokia 3310 and now not continuing to buy Nokia: 1) do Nokia still make phones? and 2) just goes to prove the point that you can't do what Matt Asay has tried to do and claim that Androids will dominate in the future.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          But kids aren't dying to have an Android phone.

          They are, however, dying to have an iPhone. They're settling for Android because they can't afford the iPhone. But as soon as they get older and have more money, they'll buy the iPhone.

    5. sabroni Silver badge

      good bet!

      why go after cheap and dumb when expensive and dumb is so profitable....

    6. Steve Crook

      It's worked well enough for Windows

      People stuck with that because they were either too afraid or too lazy to change. Perhaps some will switch, but if you've got used to android only apps, would you?

      Banks also have this form of paedophilia for the same reasons.

      1. NogginTheNog

        Windows won the business

        Windows won the business (which Apple never seriously contended for). More PCs are bought by companies than private individuals, certainly back when they cost a couple of grand each. So for a lot of people their first exposure to one was at work, and their first software may well have been 'borrowed' from work too... Windows 'won' because it became a de-facto standard: it was familiar, and provided assured compatibility with what the majority of other people (and companies) had.

    7. fandom Silver badge

      It may be both

      Actually this article mentions the unsold stockpiles of android tablets and how manufactures will need to discount them a lot to be able to move them.

      But anyway, even in the same medium different authors have different opinions. Why not?

      1. Mike Richards Silver badge


        I'm not sure how a sustainable Android tablet market can be built on discounting unsold stock. It sucks money away from R and D and leaves the vendors even less competitive against Apple. Their current strategy is following the netbook path of 'me too' substandard products towards total irrelevance. Andrew pointed out yesterday the problem with Android tablets is that they look like iPads but they don't work as well.

        1. johnny19

          There is a reason Android tablets are rubbish

          Because they are running on software designed for phones, ice cream sandwich should be a giant leap forward in Android tablets.

          I also don't buy that Android got popular because of price, almost everyone I know has moved to Android from Apple. Not one moved because of price, in fact in a lot of cases it wasn't actually cheaper, high end Android phones are often MORE expensive.

          Things like Flash, background apps, more carriers, freedom to install what you like, customisability are what is selling Android phones.

          1. vic 4

            RE: high end Android phones are often MORE expensive.

            Thats because they cost more to make and are better spec'd than iPhones, just because they have to spend less on the OS doesn't mean the hardware costs any less

          2. Boothy

            @ johnny19

            I've had a similar experience with people moving from iPhones to Android.

            In 2009 I was the first in my group of friends and colleagues to move to Android (a HTC Hero).

            I'm a techie, and the iPhone just seemed too locked down and inflexible to me, so I went for Android instead, despite all my smart phone using friends and colleagues at the time all having iPhones.

            My friends very quickly learnt about Android from me, and all of them became converts. Multitasking, install what you want, don't like the email or SMS apps, or the keyboard, or the browser, so install new ones. etc. etc.

            Today, not one of them has an iPhone, they all moved to Android one by one. Although some did buy iPod touches, as they still liked them as music players, and some had large iTunes libraries.

            Not one of these Android devices is a budget phone, and cost wasn't part of the equation. I've got a Desire S now, my other friends have various models, but all are higher end HD versions, 1GHz processors, Tegra 2 chip sets etc. etc.

            About 2 months ago I bought an Asus Transformer tablet. Since then two of my friends have also bought one. (I should be on commission!)

          3. Asgard


            @johnny19, "I also don't buy that Android got popular because of price, almost everyone I know has moved to Android from Apple."

            When I look at my technically minded friends and colleagues, I would totally agree with your assessment that its not price that is driving the uptake of Android phones.

            When I look at my non-technically minded friends and family, I would totally disagree with your assessment that it most definitely is price that is driving the uptake of *cheaper* Android phones.

            I would also bet the vast majority of us who read this website would fall into that first group of people.

            My point is however to highlight there are two entirely different market segments, both of which see reasons to buy Android and they do that for *different* reasons. However what is important is that both are finding reasons to buy some kind of Android phone.

            Now as for tablets, currently they only appeal to the premium end of the market due to their high prices, but as soon as their prices fall, more people will want to buy them as well. Its like I said yesterday, its simply the old economic principle of the supply and demand curve. As price drops, product demand increases and that economic principle has worked like that for centuries, regardless of what products we are talking about.

            Also we all know that as mass production increases that reduces manufacturing costs which in turn allow even lower price points to become possible. The point is, all of this is driving prices down and so helping to increasing the widespread acceptance of Android devices. Android wasn't a mass market 2 years ago, it was a niche market, but now Android is rapidly becoming mass market and its doing that by appealing to multiple market segments at the same time, each for their own reasons for buying the devices.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Long term?

      "Android owns the future global mobile buyer."

      How on earth can you possibly predict anything more than 2-3 years away, in a market like mobile handsets?? Mobile OSes come and go, and tech moves on so fast... I'd love to see you dig out this article in 2016 and see how well Android (and iOS?) are doing against whatever is around then...

    9. Chris007

      Title here

      From what I've been reading Motorola were pretty lax (relaxed?) about people who infringed upon their IP.

      My guess is that Google will not be that magnanimous!

      Icon: Think we know who they'll gun for first


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