has revealed the list of applicants applying for new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) that will redefine how the world navigates the Internet. In total, there are 1,930 applicants, with many new domains being sought by more than one applicant. By the beginning of 2013, Internet users could be visiting sites with domain names such as .app, .blog, .apple or .dev; some of the more risqué names include .sexy, .sucks and .porn.The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)
Many of the applicants for gTLDs are very obvious. Microsoft has applied for domain names such as .bing, .azure (its cloud service) and .microsoft. Apple applied for .apple, IBM applied for .IBM and so forth.
Right now, there are only 22 gTLDs that control how users navigate the Internet. Those include .com, .net, .org, and .gov, plus many country-level domains such as .uk (United Kingdom) and .co (Colombia). ICANN stressed that today’s announcement and release of the list of applicants is just the first step. Not all applications will be granted, and many conflicting applicants will have to be resolved.
Amazon, which is applying through its European office in Luxemburg, applied for 76 gTLDs, which will cost the company millions of dollars in application fees. Some of the more prominent gTLDs that Amazon is shooting for are .cloud, .app and .dev. (Amazon will have competition for .app; in all, 13 companies applied for that gTLD.)
The most aggressive applicant was a company called “Charleston Road Registry Inc.” that applied for 101 domain names. Charleston Road Registry Inc. appears to actually be Google. It was the only entity to apply for specific brand domain names such as .goog, .google, .youtube, .gmail, .android and other properties associated with Google. Charleston Road Registry has also applied for many extremely common domain names such as .baby, .blog, .buy, .boo, .lol, .fly, .free, .game and many more. We have reached out to both Google and Charleston Road Registry to confirm whether the two entities are indeed the same thing.
In addition to geographic communities, trade associations, large companies and media organizations (such .abc, .cbs, The Guardian and the Boston Globe), there are many holding companies that have applied for gTLDs. For instance, one of the biggest applicants was Top Level Holdings Limited, which applied for 92 domains that cost nearly $13.5 million in application fees. Top Level Domain Holdings applied on behalf of itself and its clients, looking for common names such as .gay, .green, .home and .hotel. Top Level Domain Holdings is a publicly traded holding company on the London Alternative Investment Market (a subset of the London Stock Exchange) that focuses specifically on consulting and registry services for gTLD applicants.
We could see the first domain names by the beginning of next year. First, there is a 60-day comment period for all applicants, which will be followed by a seven-month objection period. Starting on July 12, each new proposed gTLD will undergo an independent review. That review will examine both the company or entity that is applying for the gTLD and the consequences of the domain name. For instance, the independent review board will be looking at companies such as The Boston Globe to determine if it can properly and technically administer a domain name and what that means to the community it serves. Once domain names are approved, they will be entered into the Domain Name System (DNS) root and become part of the Internet.
Applicants for gTLDs were overwhelmingly from Western countries. North America had 911 applications of the total 1,930. Europe had 611 applications, Asia-Pacific 303, Latin America 24 and Africa 17. That number is actually skewed more heavily in favor of the United States, though, since Amazon, a Seattle-based company, applied through its European office.
Bloody battles over intellectual property have become the tech world’s new normal. Google just bested Oracle in an epic patent and copyright battle over the use of Java in Android. Apple is fighting in courts around the world. Technicolor, the company that brought color to the movies, is counting on patents suits as a revenue steam. A stellar infographic from visual.ly sketches the tangled alliances and conflicts among tech titans.
Technicolor doesn’t appear in the infographic below. Nonetheless, the French company now has an entire division dedicated to ripping apart smartphones, looking for patent infringements the company can negotiate licenses for, according to Bloomberg. Technicolor holds 40,000 patents in video, audio and optics and is targeting large smartphone and tablet manufacturers. Once it analyzes a device, it will send the manufacturer a file that represents a starting point for negotiations. Technicolor is hesitant to sell its large patent portfolio even though the company is losing money, Bloomberg reports. That’s because, as Technicolor lawyer Beatrix de Russe said, “If we start selling our patents, revenues will dry out.”
The implication is clear: Patents are not a tool for supporting innovation. They are a stick for beating money out of anyone within striking distance.
One company, backed by some of the largest names in technology, exists almost entirely for this purpose. Rockstar Consortium came together to buy Nortel’s 6,000 mobile-related patents for $4.5 billion last year. Backed by Apple, Microsoft, Sony, Ericsson and Research In Motion, Rockstar Consortium does nothing but dig through competitors’ devices and analyze them to see if they are violating any of the 4,000 patents that the company controls.
A quick guide to the chart below: The outside ring represents patents that have been transferred or sold. That’s all the light purple lines leaving Nortel and going to companies such as Microsoft, Apple, EMC and Ericsson. IBM sold 2,094 patents to Google, which also acquired 17,000 patents when it acquired Motorola. Note all the lines extending to and from Apple. The iPhone maker is suing HTC, Nokia, Motorola Mobility, Samsung and Kodak. All of those companies have returned fire with their own patent suits against Apple.
In view of this quagmire, top entrepreneurs such as Mark Cuban are calling for patent reform in the United States. “There are industries where patents are used fairly to protect intellectual property. The technology industry is not one of them,” Cuban wrote when news broke that Yahoo is suing Facebook over patents. “Ninety-nine percent of the time they are anti-competitive, corruptive, impede creativity and innovation, and can kill small businesses. The ratio of patent law doing a good job protecting company IP versus it being used purely to negatively impact competitors or to troll for un-earned revenue is probably 1,000 to 1.”
We need to straighten out this mess. At stake is nothing less than the future of innovation.
When it comes to the nuances of the mobile landscape, there are not many people out there more knowledgeable than analyst Chetan Sharma. We have long relied on the work of Sharma at ReadWriteWeb to inform our own reporting and opinions about where the mobile industry is going. For the start of 2012, Sharma turned it around. He surveyed a wide swath of insiders to determine what the biggest stories were in 2011 and how the industry will evolve in the new year.
The consensus top story was the rise of Android and its dominance over the ecosystem. A close second was the passing of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. The Kindle Fire, intellectual property battles and “other” issues round out the top five. Who will succeed in 2012? How will developers make money? What will be the breakthrough category in mobile in 2012? Sharma’s results are below.
Google The Most “Open”
This may come as a joke to most many industry followers, but Sharma’s insiders vote Google the “most open player in the mobile ecosystem” for 2012. Granted, the options are not that much better, but Google rocked the competition with a little less than 70% of the vote while no other player, including Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Nokia, the carriers, OEMs or Amazon got more than 10%. This is the fourth year that Google has been the most open in the mobile according to Sharma’s polls, though the percentage has been decreasing since its peak in 2010.
So much for “clopen?”
Really, there is a lot more to being “open” than just the vague espoused by the so-called “clopen” argument. Google has made the entire Ice Cream Sandwich source code available online to anybody that knows how to use it. Are there problems with the update process? Certainly. But, you do not see anybody trying to put iOS/webOS/Windows Phone on the Kindle Fire or HP TouchPad.
The insiders are still high on mobile payments as the breakthrough category for 2012. There were a lot of advancements in mobile payments in 2011 but the thought of paying with your smartphone is still more of a dream than reality for most consumers. About 23% of consumers have now warmed up to the notion of mobile payments according to a recent report. The next breakthrough category is mCommerce followed by mHealth, enterprise and near field communications. Sharma’s insiders are not nearly so high on mobile advertising as they were a year ago.
The survey predicts that the financial sector will be the leader in mobile payments. This fits in with what we have seen in the latter half of 2011 where the technology and financial sectors started to merge. No other company or industry vertical got more than 20% of the vote, with the cellular operators (Verizon/AT&T etc.) and startups (Square/Dwolla/LevelUp) competing in the space.
Movers & Shakers
What company is going to make the biggest mobile acquisition in 2012? The group thinks that Microsoft has the biggest potential to purchase something large. Many of the pundits in the survey probably think that Microsoft will be forced to make some kind of major plunge like putting in a takeover bid for BlackBerry maker Research In Motion or going all the way with Nokia and just subsuming the company into the Redmond umbrella.
Google, as always, is could be a viper ready to strike and snap up a large mobile company. It has done so before and surprised the industry each time with both AdMob and Motorola. The carriers are likely to make more content and developer acquisitions in the coming years than they have previously showed interest in before.
The most influential person in mobile last year was Steve Jobs, followed by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Android creator Andy Rubin came in fourth behind … Angry Birds?!
Mobile Web, Native Apps, Monetization & The Cloud
Is 2012 going to be the Year Of The Mobile Web? Most of the respondents said that the “mobile Web will start to become more relevant.” About 13% fewer answered that “apps will continue to dominate” than did so in 2011.
Mobile cloud computing will increase in 2012. That includes people tying data services to their smartphones but also developers tying their applications to the cloud. Enterprise is the leading use-case for the mobile clouds with storage and media each taking 20% and apps close behind at 19%.
You can see the full survey results from Sharma’s insiders here.
Overall, we can use Sharma’s survey as an accurate roadmap of what to expect in 2012. More mobile Web, more cloud, more disruption while Android and Apple dominate and the rest of the ecosystem has to play catch up.
There are 20 questions in total in Sharma’s survey. Head on over and let us know how you would answer each of the survey questions in the comments.
The memo has already gone out to the various book editors, news editors, and technology analysts: The proper phrase is not “tablet PC” any more. A tablet and a PC are perceived by both consumers and businesses as two separate classes of device. You probably saw the TV ads this season where Santa’s elves kicked out the 4G smartphones and tablets, and dispensed with the old gifts nobody wants. “Bye, bye, computer,” the elves sang to an old Johnny Mathis tune.
Since its very inception, Microsoft’s business model has been about leverage. It uses its established foundation in one popular platform to extend another. The advance of the tablet form factor had been announced further ahead of time than Margaret Thatcher announced the surge on the Falklands. It’s not like Microsoft didn’t see this coming. But in 20/20 hindsight, it’s remarkable to see now how the company appears to have actively worked to thwart that advance, to slow it down, by introducing potential form factors that could deflect interest in tablets – for example, an embedded device that could reveal the weather forecast and present your e-mails, that could be sewn to one’s luggage.
“What Am I?” Round 4
For over a decade, electronics manufacturers looked to Microsoft and Intel for leadership in defining what a handheld, functional form factor would be, because its marketability would need to be fueled by a desirable platform. Their first attempt, called “Origami,” was crude, ungainly, and powerless, even jumping the borderline into the territory of ridiculous; but then amazingly, their second and third attempts were no better.
A tablet PC was not as desirable as a tablet. Consumers were clearly demonstrating a preference for a device that did not remind them of everyday work. Connecting to their PC would be nice, but being another PC was not necessary. Unfortunately for Microsoft, Apple answered that calling almost completely. Just as more smartphones today resemble iPhones than BlackBerrys, more tablets today resemble iPads than PCs. Only recently has there been a tablet form factor that any plurality of manufacturers would want to promote as a top-shelf product.
Still, no single manufacturer – not even Apple – has sewn a common thread through every electronics form factor using a substance more solid than branding alone. While parts of the Windows Phone platform are indeed Windows, the two platforms are designed to run different software. The holy grail for Microsoft would be more than a common thread, but a bond of technology that seals the deal for both Windows Phone and Windows 8, creating the need for one out of the need for the other.
The challenges for Microsoft toward this end are these:
1. Making customers want this. The party that stands to benefit the most, and the soonest, from a convergence of “the two Windowses” is comprised of wireless carriers. Their support may be critical, because the massive investment manufacturers require to produce high-bandwidth touchscreen connectivity devices won’t be subsidized by consumers alone. Microsoft’s tying one Windows to the other may be the only factor that sparks carriers’ interest in investing in Windows Phone-capable devices, and in following Microsoft’s more carefully plotted hardware support strategy (letting Microsoft define what the phone should be). But that same value proposition is not obvious to the consumer, who has already divided “tablet” from “PC” in her mind, and so far is quite pleased with the result. And as long as the end customer demonstrates no desire, the carriers won’t generate it either.
2. Creating a common class of software. There is frankly not much software that can, or even should, scale up to fit the PC and then scale down to smartphone size and retain most of its functionality. There’s a way to play “Angry Birds” on a PC, but folks seem to have more fun holding it in their hands. Handheld games are fun because they are handheld. There’s a way to create .DOCX and . XLSX files on a smartphone, but it’s typically a waste of time trying to create an entire database with a mail-merge form on a plane. You can’t just scale software up or down and expect it to be as functional or as practical; anything that should scale must be redesigned for scalability. Redesigning everything to fit a hybridized platform is actually harder, and potentially less successful, than designing something completely new from the ground up.
3. Tying all devices to the same cloud. Conceivably, the most important common bond between devices bearing a Windows logo could be a Microsoft cloud-delivered service. At long last, Windows Live has a purpose that customers can easily embrace: Syncing media between devices is the most obvious and desirable cloud service. But if Microsoft transitions too much of its software into cloud-based services too soon, key components of Windows’ original value proposition would be put in play. For example, many home offices run Windows because they need to run the same Microsoft Office (i.e., not the Mac OS version) that’s in their workplaces. A fully capable Office suite in the cloud may (and most likely will) find itself challenged by other fully capable, cloud-based suites whose cross-platform nature will make Windows dependency seem like a handicap. And PC-centric applications deployed through Windows Azure are already finding themselves challenged by cross-platform apps deployed through Salesforce.com’s Heroku, and probably by new cloud players as well.
*Some assembly required.
So it’s amid these challenges that Microsoft is advancing Windows 8, whose first public beta may be expected in late February. Its value proposition is under construction, but it may be the best that Microsoft can do with what it has. There are asterisks all over its plan.
Windows 8 will run a new class of software*, that takes a cue from how tablets make software unlike the PC by being itself being unlike a PC. This class may (let’s not say “will” just yet, if only to be safe) be cross-platform*. You’ll still be able to run the existing software (on your PC), but what will make the new software desirable will be 1) its newness; 2) its use of a new and secure* common reference model for software; 3) its connectivity to a cloud* that connects all Windows-branded devices with yet another class of software*.
*The asterisks, of course, all mean, “To be determined (TBD).” It isn’t that Microsoft has this Apple-style curtain over these facts which it will eventually reveal in some gala premiere special with Mariah Carey and Boyz 2 Men. The painfully obvious fact is that no one at all really knows how this convergence will work, and the beta process will literally be a live dress rehearsal for all these ideas.
Microsoft is dictating terms with respect to specifications for Windows Phones, just the way it has done with specs for PCs that qualify to carry the Windows logo. To put itself in a position to do so, and to make the bargain worthwhile for carriers, it alludes to the promise of a common leverage point with the established PC platform, in which customers have already made significant investments. Windows could be more than just synchronized; it could be coordinated, providing what the company calls “the end-to-end experience.” But to make this promise, it has had to upend its entire development strategy for desktop computing, which is based around the .NET Framework upon which the Windows Azure cloud depends – and it’s that same cloud which must somehow tie together the common functions of Windows on PCs, tablet, smartphones, and conceivably HDTVs if they’re still in the mix.
All this may make you ask, why didn’t I entitle this article, “Is Windows 8 too early?” The answer lies back with the failed unveiling of the Origami UMPC in 2006. Of all the bad ideas and feature omissions (such as connectivity being a future option) which ended up dooming Intel’s and Microsoft’s joint prototype, the fatal bullet may have been the first one fired anyway: From a distance, you could still see that the UMPC was made to run Windows XP. Not Vista, XP. If these companies had serious intentions on advancing a mobile platform, their failure to even make the attempt to court the industry that already had a lock on mobility – the wireless carriers – was no more clearly demonstrated than with XP on their mobile PC.
Microsoft’s entire business philosophy has been built around extending the PC. And when it ran up against a barrier beyond which the PC operating system and methodology could not be pushed, it pushed anyway. 2006 was Microsoft’s opportunity to reinvent the wheel to fit a new and bolder mechanism. The time for Metro-style apps and accessible cloud services and the minimalist design philosophy was six years ago. But instead of prototyping the Windows Phone that could bridge the two platforms back then when the world was ready for it, beating Apple to the punch, Microsoft spent all its resources and talent on building Zune – a single-function device whose only purpose was to take a bite out of the iPod.
Today, the iPod (with an “o”) isn’t even on anyone’s radar; it’s a relic. Like a greenhorn hunter, Microsoft aimed at where it thought the market was at the time, not where it was going. Windows 8 should have been Windows 6.
[Photo of Origami PC from CES 2006 by Wolfgang Gruener, TG Daily]
Editor’s note: This morning news broke that Google has acquired Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. The move is a fork for Google in that it is getting into the device business on a large scale for the first time in its history. The big discussion is surrounds the fact that part of Google’s acquisition of Motorola is to “defend Android” from patent lawsuits from the likes of Microsoft, Apple and others. Motorola has 17,000 mobile patents with another 7,500 pending. Google hopes to use those patents to protect Android and the entire ecosystem, including other Android original equipment manufacturers outside of Motorola, against attacks.
The below transcript is the highlights from the conference call that Google and Motorola held this morning after the announcement. Questions from analysts and financial companies have been stripped so as to show the answers to pertinent issues from Google and Motorola.
Larry Page – Google CEO
I’m very excited to announce that we have entered into an agreement to acquire Motorola Mobility this morning, an agreement that has been unanimously approved by both Boards. I believe the combination of the two companies is going to create tremendous shareholder value, drive great user experiences and accelerate innovation.
In May 2005 I met Andy Rubin for the first time. Andy had a crazy vision for the mobile industry. He wanted to align the standards across the mobile industry and the Internet. Andy felt that it was inefficient for each hardware manufacturer to have developed software constantly. Andy had a vision for an open-source platform that would accelerate the pace of innovation in the industry and deliver compelling user experiences.
That was just six years ago and Android is now one of the leading platforms in the industry. Andy has grown tremendously — or Android, I should say, has grown tremendously since its launch in November of 2007. More than 150 million Android devices have been activated worldwide through a network of 39 manufacturers, 231 carriers in 123 countries. And there’s more than 550,000 Android devices are lit up every day, that’s just amazing progress.
Turning our attention to Motorola Mobility, they have an amazing track record of over 80 years of innovation in communications technology and the development of intellectual property, which helped drive the remarkable revolution in mobile computing we are all enjoying today.
Motorola’s innovation in the mobile space has led to a number of industry milestones, including the introduction of the world’s first portable cell phone nearly 30 years ago and the StarTAC, the smallest and lightest phone on earth at the time of the launch.
Not long after the launch after Android Motorola Mobility had a new CEO and he got together with Andy and they shared a vision for the mobile industry. Sanjay made a big bet; he bet big on Android as the sole operating system across all of Motorola’s smartphone and tablet devices. That bet has seen him transform Motorola Mobility into one of the leading Android smartphone developers in the world.
It’s no secret that Web usage is increasingly shifting to mobile devices, a trend I expect to continue. With mobility continuing to take center stage in the computing revolution, the combination with Motorola is an extremely important event in Google’s continuing evolution that will drive a lot of improvements in our ability to deliver great user experiences.
Motorola Mobility has a great team with experience in developing solutions for mobile computing and for the home devices market. I’m impressed by the transformation of Motorola Mobility that the team there has initiated. I think they have an exciting product roadmap, a strong vision for the future and are poised for growth.
I think there’s an opportunity to accelerate innovation in the home business by working together with the cable and telco industry as we go through a transition to Internet protocol. Motorola also has a strong patent portfolio which will help protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies.
Many hardware partners have contributed to Android’s success and we look forward to continuing our work with all of them on an equal basis to deliver outstanding user experiences. We built Android as an open-source platform and it will stay that way. We’ve committed to that since the formation of the Open Handset Alliance nearly four years ago. Our plan is that Motorola will remain a licensee of Android.
Having spoken to some of the key partners of the Android ecosystem, they share our enthusiasm for this combination. I’m really excited about the acquisition and the possibilities it opens up for the Android ecosystem. My intention is to work closely with the Motorola teams and let Sanjay and his management team drive the business, that way we can supercharge both the Android ecosystem as well as the Motorola business.
David Drummond – Google Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer
We’ve been saying for some time that we intend to protect the Android ecosystem; it’s under threat from some companies who are looking to use patents (technical difficulty).
And so I think while I’m not prepared to talk about specific strategies, we think that combining with Motorola and having that kind of a patent portfolio, which Sanjay can talk about in a moment, to protect the ecosystem is a good thing.
Sanjay Jha – Motorola Mobility Chairman & CEO
Thanks, David. Just talking about the patent portfolio that we have here at Motorola Mobility, we have over 17,000 issued patents worldwide, we have on top of that over 7,500 patent applications in process. We have tremendous strength not only in wireless standards but also wireless non-essential patents which are the patents which are required to deliver competitive products in the marketplace. And as a result of the combination of these patents we believe we’ll be able to provide much better support to the businesses at Motorola Mobility as well as support the Android ecosystem.
Andy Rubin – Google Senior Vice President of Mobile (Android Founder)
I spoke yesterday to I think it was the top five Android licensees and they all showed very enthusiastic support for the deal. Android obviously was born as an open platform; it doesn’t make sense for it to be a single OEM. We want to go as wide as possible and obviously all of our existing OEM partners help make it what it is today.
I’m really excited about this deal and I think while there are competencies there that aren’t core to us so, we’re also — as I mentioned, we’re operating — we’ll plan to operate Motorola Mobility as a separate business so that they have competency there.
And I’m really excited about protecting and supporting the Android ecosystem. And I think that their patent on Android two and a half years ago has really paid off and there’s evidence from their success in the smartphone space.
And we really believe that Motorola Mobility has tremendous opportunity for growth and will really create a lot of value in the future.
And we really believe in the plans of the Motorola team, Sanjay and their vision for the future and really expect them to be successful. So I think this is a really unique opportunity and one that I’m tremendously excited about.
Sure, this is David. Look, I think that we’ve seen some very aggressive licensing demands in the Android ecosystem and we think this is a result of having the patent portfolio we’ll be able to make sure that Android remains open and vibrant and the kind of platform that lots of companies can (technical difficulty).
On Motorola and Ecosystem
Thank you. Look, I mean, Motorola existed as one of the really, really early licensees of Android, they were a founding member of the Open Handset Alliance. After this transaction nothing changes, they’re going to be a separate business and it’s business as usual for Android. So I see it as basically protecting the ecosystem and extending it as well.
On Regulatory Concerns
Sure, this is David. On the first question, this is a transaction obviously given its size that will require regulatory approval and a number — certainly in the United States, certainly in Europe and possibly some other jurisdictions.
We’re quite confident that this will be approved. We believe very strongly this is a pro-competitive transaction and there are lots of reasons for that. But a couple of them — Android has clearly added competition, innovation, increased user choice. We think that protecting that ecosystem is pro-competitive almost by definition.
This is not a horizontal transaction. Google has not materially been in the handset business, so we think there are — so this certainly doesn’t draw those kinds of concerns and we certainly think this is a very competitive transaction.
In terms of the — you mentioned terms of the agreement. I think we’ll be filing the agreement between Motorola and Google’s public filings. We’ll have the details of the agreement in those filings and those will be forthcoming shortly.
On Nexus Device Strategy and Ecosystem
Sure, and to add to Larry’s points, we have this strategy where we have the Nexus program and we have this lead device strategy.
That strategy has worked quite well to help focus the team. What we do is we select each — around Christmas time of each year we select a manufacturer that we work very closely with to release a device in that time frame.
That includes also semiconductor companies and all the components that go in the device. And essentially the teams huddle together in one building, they jointly work on these development efforts, they go on for 12 — nine to 12 months and ultimately at the holiday season or right before it devices pop out that are based on the this effort.
We don’t expect that to change at all. The acquisition is going to be run as a separate business; they will be part of that bidding process and part of that lead development process. And obviously Android remains open to other partners to use as they are today.
On Patent Defending
I think we’ve said for some time that we need to build our patent portfolio to make sure that Android and other businesses can be successful. So we will continue to do that.
Yes, absolutely. Thanks, Patrick. I think one thing I’d say is that we are really excited about this whole business and working with the Motorola team and all the employees and all the hard work there that’s gone on over the years. And we at Google are very excited about this and I think the Motorola Mobility folks are as well and there’s tremendous opportunity here.
Android is growing like crazy; we think that will benefit all partners in the Android ecosystem including Motorola. And we’re very excited about those opportunities going forward. It really allows us to supercharge the whole Android ecosystem.
They made a great bet on Android that was really successful and that’s made them the leading Android smartphone maker and we really believe that Motorola Mobility is poised for tremendous growth. And furthermore I’d say that the leading — they’re a leading home devices maker, that’s also a big opportunity. And we’re working with them and the industry to really accelerate innovation.
So with that I want to thank everyone for joining us on such short notice and thank all of the employees at Motorola Mobility and at Google for all of their hard work and for all of you for spending time with us this morning.
Google has finally voiced their “official” opinion about the ongoing patent suits that areÂ targeting Android, directly or indirectly.Â Â We had earlier seen comments on this from Google officials, but this is the first time that they have come out in the open and written a blog post on the Official Google BlogÂ devoted exclusively to the ongoing slugfest.
The post titled “When Patents Attack Android” is written byÂ David Drummond, Google’s Chief Legal Officer who claims that companies like Microsoft, Apple and Oracle are trying to cripple the Android ecosystem by what he calls “getting into bed with each other”. He goes on to raise a stink about how over valued these patents have become citing the example of Nortel’s patent portfolio which was sold at $4.5 billion, nearly five times its estimated value. He also echoed Schmidt’s statement, which accused Google’s rivals of taking the route of patent litigation rather than innovation to fight competition. An excerpt from the post states:
“A smartphoneÂ mightÂ involve as many as 250,000 (largely questionable) patent claims, and our competitors want to impose a â€œtaxâ€ for these dubious patents that makes Android devices more expensive for consumers. They want to make it harder for manufacturers to sell Android devices.”
He has also accused Apple and Microsoft are seeking $15 licensing fees for every Android device; in an attempt to make it more expensive for phone manufacturers to license Android, which it gives it for free.
It indicates how vulnerable Google is on the patent front presently. They were caught off-guard when these patent wars started to erupt and now that they realise the seriousness of the situation, it might very well be too late for them.Â InterDigital’s 8,800 patents are up for grabs and Apple and Google are actively trying to acquire this patent stash.
Apple is in a very strong position in terms of cash, and Google would definitely have to get in bed with one or more of itsÂ competitors to keep Apple from acquiring these patents. So unless it chooses to take a high moral ground (to protest against the present patent system) and not bid for the patents at all, it would have to do exactly what Drummord condems in the post, team up to keep others away. Hypocrisy right?
Moreover it wasn’t like Google was never invited to be a part of the winning group of Novell’s patents at all. Two Microsoft execs revealed on Twitter that Google themselvesÂ declinedÂ an invitation to bid jointly with Microsoft for Novell’s patents.
Attached with one of those tweets was an email from Google’s SVPÂ Kent Walker to Microsoft’s General CounselÂ Brad Smith, which read:
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you â€” I came down with a 24-hour bug on the way back from San Antonio. After talking with people here, it sounds as though for various reasons a joint bid wouldnâ€™t be advisable for us on this one. But I appreciate your flagging it, and weâ€™re open to discussing other similar opportunities in the future.
I hope the rest of your travels go well, and I look forward to seeing you again soon.
For what reasons Google denied the invitation isn’t known, but this coupled the Nortel patent loss cost Google a lot, which left them with no option but to seek public support, through the blog.
Interestingly, Google has remained silent on the parallel patent wars going on between developers and firms like Lodsys and Kotool. This is in contrast to what is going on at the Apple front, where Apple has taken a firm stance against these patent trolls and backed their developers.
So it seems Google believes in voicing their opinions and taking a stance only when they are directly under threat, rather than actually giving support to these developers whose efforts are in fact what has Google has piggy backed on since long to promote Android.
The most important thing to take away from the post – Google is publiclyÂ acknowledging that Android’sÂ existence is in jeopardy if the patent scene doesn’t change.
What do you think? Please share your views in the comment section below.