Well, that was unexpected – most of you will have heard by now that Google just sold Motorola Mobility to Lenovo for almost $3 billion, taking Android's parent company back out of the hardware game, and, possibly, putting the whole ecosystem on solid footing for the future.
Initial reaction to the deal has been largely positive. Having a direct Google subsidiary playing in the viciously competitive and hugely profitable smartphone hardware marketplace riled Android partners like Samsung, who were making their own moves into software as a consequence.
Ars Technica calls the deal a “nuclear stand-down," asserting that it thaws the relationship between Samsung and Google considerably, with positive results for the customer - we’re apparently to be spared Samsung’s ever-more-extensive mutations of the Android experience, and a hardware-focused company like Lenovo could get the most out of Motorola.
It’s worth pointing out that, superficially at least, Google absolutely took a bath on Motorola – the difference between the 2011 acquisition price and Wednesday’s sale is almost $10 billion. But ReadWriteWeb points out that it’s actually not that bad a deal, when you look at the fine print. Given that Google had already sold part of the company in 2013 for $2.4 billion and that it keeps most of the valuable patents it got in the original deal as part of the new one, the price isn’t totally dissimilar from other multi-billion dollar patent deals.
Along with the cross-licensing deal between Samsung and Google announced days earlier, which should help head off any ugly patent lawsuits between the two most important companies in the Android world, the prevailing narrative is essentially a happy one for Google, Samsung and Lenovo.
Lenovo’s existing smartphone lines get a badly needed facelift, and the Moto brand gives it presence in markets that it’s been essentially absent from thus far. Samsung’s relationship with Google thaws dramatically, freeing it up to focus more heavily on its hardware. Google benefits from this too, ridding itself of an unprofitable fixer-upper of a division that diverted time and attention from software and services.
What it will mean for the end-user, however, is less clear, which is why some of the more Android-fan-focused blogs were less strident in their praise. Android Police laments the effect of the deal on Motorola’s existing Moto X and G products, and says that Motorola phones won’t get the same media attention they did when the company was under Google’s aegis. Android Authority speculates about the future direction of Motorola as well, urging Lenovo to keep the focus on the user experience, rather than raw horsepower.
As you might expect, speculation is now rife about potential follow-on effects from the deal, ranging from the future of the Nexus line to the exact nature of Motorola’s integration into Lenovo. There’s also a lot of talk about Larry Page’s note in the official announcement of the deal that Google’s “other hardware efforts” would not be affected.
It’s also been noted that Motorola’s advanced technology group – which is responsible for the Project Ara modular smartphone – will remain in Google’s hands.
(H/T: The Verge)
All this has meant that the recent spate of Galaxy S 5 rumors has dried up fairly significantly of late, though the redoubtable @EVLeaks Twitter account did reignite speculation that the GS 5 would feature both a 2K-resolution display and a fingerprint reader. I maintain that a 2K screen on a smartphone is absolutely overkill, but the leaked .apk pictures suggest that it’s coming. Not that specs for their own sake aren’t a common Samsung theme, of course.
The Nokia X – which is what GSM Arena says will be the name of the company’s long-rumored Android phone – has popped up on AnTuTu benchmark, posting a somewhat lame score on a browser test. GSM Arena says also that the Nokia X won’t be Google-approved – so no Play Store or official Google Services, meaning that you’ll have to rely on a separate Nokia app store or sideload apps directly. Let’s hope the price is right, at least.
Email Jon Gold at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.