Could Google pull an Apple on Motorola hardware?

Hardware-software integration could lead to secure Android smartphones

Google's US$12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility is being reported primarily in terms of access to patents and difficulty integrating the corporate cultures. But there's also a potential longer-term spin-off. Secure Android smartphones.

Motorola's patents are certainly at the core of the deal. Around 24,500 of them.

"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 Google CEO Larry Page.

The deal also gives Google a manufacturing arm.

Gartner places Motorola Mobility as the world's eight largest phone manufacturer. Its market share has declined from 18.4 percent back in 2007 to a mere 2.4 percent today.

But that relatively small size isn't necessarily a limitation. Motorola is a company with a strong tradition of innovation and quality engineering -- although they're probably more a follow-the-procedure shop than hyper-innovative Google. They can grow again.

The potential is there for tighter integration between hardware and software development.

Think iPad. Think Apple.

"They've done a wonderful, wonderful design, and they've built a system that's relatively open, in the sense that you can have new apps on there, but at the same time has some secure features," said Dr Paul Nielsen, director and chief executive officer of the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

"They've actually had a better experience recently than the Android systems, which are even more open but have almost no security on them, and we've seen some cases already of malware being deployed on Android systems," Nielsen told CSO Online recently.

Motorola is a perfect fit for this strategy.

Motorola Mobility was only spun off from Motorola Inc in January this year, and Motorola Inc has a tradition of providing secure communications systems for government, military, law enforcement and emergency services customers stretching back to World War II -- although admittedly much of the security expertise would have gone to General Dynamics a decade ago when Motorola sold that part of its business, which became GD Decision Systems and then part of General Dynamics C4 Systems.

Still, positive workplace cultures can be slow to fade.

The other key Android smartphone manufacturers -- Samsung, Sony Ericsson, LG and HTC -- are all consumer electronics companies with nothing like Motorola's security tradition.

Either way, being owned by Google gives Motorola Mobility a distinct advantage over those four and the rest of the Android licensees -- there's 38 in all. You need no further proof than the rather forced statements the key four have made, all variations on "We welcome Google‘s commitment to defending Android and its partners."

I, for one, welcome our new Android overlords.

And as one final clue, The Wall Street Journal reports that Motorola recently acquired Three Laws Mobility, a startup founded by former Google employees. It makes security software for Android devices.

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More about AppleApple.Carnegie Mellon University AustraliaEricsson AustraliaGartnerGeneral DynamicsGoogleHTCLGMellonMicrosoftMotorolaNielsenSamsungSonySony EricssonWall Street

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