Google plans to buy Motorola Mobility at a nice little premium, and assuming it passes through regulation, Google stands to pick up a treasure trove of patents to defend itself, and its Android platform, from other patent threats. That's all well and good for smartphones, but there has to be more to a $12.5 billion deal than patents, right?
There are aspects of the deal that will impact Google's competitive and regulatory stature, their fledgling set-top TV box business, other mobile tech competitors, and a less-talked-about aspect of Android. Here are five ways the Google-Motorola deal shakes out beyond smartphones:
1. It makes more big acquisitions, like Hulu, less likely for the near future
Google has reportedly sniffed around a few big web and tech targets in the recent past, including Twitter, streaming music service Spotify, and, on occasion, Hulu. But if the FTC and other federal agencies were keen on auditing Google's competitive advantages before, they're certainly going to have a few more questions on their list after an acquisition as head-turning as Googorola/Motoogle.
As All Things D points out, Google's acquisitions can take a long time to clear these days, likely longer than Hulu's backers and investors would want to wait. A major content source like Hulu, in particular, would arouse suspicions of a strong-armed buy-out move, but any big target is going to look a bit less likely until Motorola Mobility clears the books.
2. Google TV just got a lot more promising
You know how all your friends are complaining that Google TV really needs an apps platform? Yeah, neither have I, because so few people are bringing home Google TVs, they're seeing massive price cuts, and not much other press coverage. But Motorola's Mobility division includes their set-top cable box business, which led its sector in revenues in 2010 and has the majority stake in boxes that deliver television and apps through a high-speed data connection--like Verizon's FiOS. With Motorola in its corner, Google TV can move from an experiment that a few manufacturers are willing to try out on a handful of products to a platform vying for pre-installation on cable boxes, where Google has a much greater chance of wowing users.
3. Windows Phone actually becomes the independent smartphone OS
Apple won't ever license its iOS smartphone system, and now Google, even with lots of words to the contrary, looks like it has favorites among its Android partners. Microsoft will now be, oddly enough, the only big smartphone provider that isn't making its own hardware. It has Nokia coming under its wing, sure, but compared to the position Google just bought into, Microsoft and Nokia are still starting from scratch and perhaps have a sympathetic ear for phone manufacturers looking for something new.
4. At least three other tech firms reportedly left hungry
Google wasn't the only big firm taking a look at patent-rich Motorola Mobility, according to Fortune's sources. HP, Dell, and Microsoft supposedly showed at least some interest in acquiring the firm, and for much the same reason as Google had - except with a different outcome intended for Android, especially in Microsoft's case. There's talk that Google might have considered teaming up with a third party to split the patents and production aspects, but with the whole of Motorola coming under the Google umbrella, it remains to be seen what these other firms can do to get the same kind of market share in one fell swoop.
5. Tablets get some serious attention
Motorola was the first out of the gate with a tablet running Google's Honeycomb (3.0) Android platform. The spoils of that adventure have not exactly been lush. But with Google bolstering the balance sheet, enforcing a certain level of quality and platform fidelity, and having a say in the design, we'll see tablets running Android that reach much further toward the iPad throne than you'd see had Motorola been left to march on its own. Price subsidies, in particular, could be a nice incentive to pick up a G-tab.
Kevin Purdy is a freelance writer, a former editor at Lifehacker.com, and the author of The Complete Android Guide.