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The Art of War: Why Google Bought Motorola

“Invincibility lies in the defence; the possibility of victory in the attack.”

If you have read Sun Tzu‘s The Art of War you will know the famous Chinese military general and philosopher was obsessed with adaption. He claimed successful strategy was not about a rigid game plan, but being fluid to the environmental factors at any given moment. Well it looks as if Google has been reading Sun Tzu…

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“The idea a year and a half ago was to do the Nexus One to try to move the phone platform hardware business forward. It clearly did. It was so successful, we didn’t have to do a second one.” This quote came from Google’s then CEO Eric Schmidt in July 2009 after the cancellation of the Nexus One. Five months later Google was back with the Nexus S and confronted about the U-turn all Schmidt would say was he promised no ‘Nexus Two’, not an ‘S’. Google was rapidly evolving its business model to market conditions and with the purchase of Motorola Mobility this week for $12.5bn (£7.67bn) the company has made its most seismic shift to date.

The reason for the purchase again comes like a lesson from Sun Tzu: it is one of simultaneous attack and defence – both on its partners and the opposition.

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For its partners Google’s logic is the deal gives it control of Motorola’s circa 17,000 mobile patents. The handset sector is currently awash with libel action and Android’s relatively late entry into the market has seen many of its partners taken to court. If Google suddenly controls the patents from the mobile devices division of a telecommunications company which has been in operation since 1928 it has considerable weaponry with which to defend them.

“We welcome today’s news, which demonstrates Google’s deep commitment to defending Android, its partners, and the ecosystem,” crowed Samsung Mobile CEO JK Shin. “We welcome Google’s commitment to defending Android and its partners” agreed Jong-Seok Park, president & CEO of LG Electronics. “I welcome Google’s commitment to defending Android and its partners,” echoed Bert Nordberg, president & CEO of Sony Ericsson.

That said, despite these public proclamations and Google’s promise it will run Motorola as an independent entity, all Android partners know the purchase will place greater pressure upon them…

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