The main reasons behind Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility

On Monday, Google announced that it had acquired Motorola Mobility, the handset development arm of the telecommunications company for a price of $12.5 billion (£7.5 billion). Google was quick to assure the public that Motorola will be run as a separate division to Android. One of the main drivers of the success of Android is the open nature of its platform, which will not be affected by this acquisition and which will continue to serve as the sole operating system for all of Motorola’s smartphones. Larry Page, Google’s co-founder and CEO, commented on the acquisition that “together, we will create amazing user experiences that supercharge the entire Android ecosystem for the benefit of consumers, partners and developers everywhere.”

I’ve spent a bit of time trying to get a better understanding of the main reasons for this deal and the key benefits expected by Google. This is a brief summary of the main things I found:

  1. Patents! (part 1) – Motorola has a portfolio of 17,000 patents which Google will now be able to license to other Android users like HTC and Sony. In addition, Motorola has 7,500 pending patents. This newly acquired patent portfolio could help Google in significantly expanding (and protecting) the capabilities of its Android platform.
  2. Patents! (part 2) – Probably the most vital reason for this acquisition is the protection Motorola’s patent portfolio should offer Android against future legal action from the likes of Apple and Microsoft. Android has already been subjected to a multibillion dollar lawsuit by Oracle and is facing ‘indirect’ legal challenges through the complaints brought by Apple against Android device makers including HTC and Samsung. Having an extensive patent portfolio in place should help to better protect Android in future.
  3. New commercial channels to explore – Google will also gain a new and valuable channel into users’ living rooms through Motorola Mobility’s profitable set-top box business, which makes receivers for cable TV operators.
  4. Vertical integration – In an attempt to learn from the best (i.e. Apple) this acquisition is also meant as a way to integrate vertically, with Google hoping to “supercharge” its future Android releases through seamlessly merging its hardware and software.
Main learning point: out of all the key reasons for the Motorola acquisition that I learned about, I feel that “patent” is the magic word here. Given that Android as a business is still in its infancy (it’s only been around for three years) it has to play catch-up when it comes to patent protection. Earlier this year, Google lost out to its direct competitors RIM and Apple in an auction of valuable Nortel patents and patent applications. Had it won this auction, it would have been like getting access to the holy grail for Google. With this recent acquisition of Motorola Mobile, Google is hoping to be better armed in the ‘intellectual property war’ that seems to have been sparked by its direct competitors.


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Book review: Agile Excellence for Product Managers

Agile product management is a very interesting and dynamic area. In a post a few months ago I explored how agile product management differs from ‘traditional’ product management using a great book by Roman Pichler as a reference. I’ve just finished “Agile Excellence for Product Managers” by Greg Cohen which outlines the key principles of Agile product management.

In his book, Greg Cohen describes with a good amount of practical detail the role that Agile can play in managing a product throughout its lifecycle. Unlike many other books, the diagrams in this book are relevant and provide a good starting point for applying some of the Agile tools yourself.

I found the book particularly useful with respect to the following areas:

  1. What does a (good) product manager do? – Cohen explains how the product manager acts as the voice of the customer in development and makes sure that the right product gets built.
  2. Linkage between business strategy, product strategy and roadmap – The book does really well in going beyond the pure delivery aspect of software development, by outlining the way a business strategy should translate into a product strategy and roadmap.
  3. Minimum marketable feature – I already knew about this concept, but it was good to see the underlying principle reinforced in this book and to understand how product managers can build on these minimum but key product features (see also “Software by numbers” by Mark Denne and Jane Cleland-Huang).
  4. Constraint card – The book mentions the use of constraint cards as introduced by Mike Cohn in User stories applied. I like how these simple cards provide a structured and comprehensive way of assessing product viability, taking into account common constraints such as performance and portability.
  5. Prioritisation matrix – Again, another structured way to approach a common theme for most product managers, “how to best prioritise product improvements, new features and requests from stakeholders?” Applying and weighing predetermined criteria is a good way of removing some of the randomness that can be involved in software development and subsequent iterations.

Main learning point: this is a very useful book for product managers, using Cohen’s practical tools and tips to develop and iterate (digital) products. The book does a good job in explaining how Agile techniques can be applied to product managing, developing a product and managing through its lifecycle. It has given me plenty of ideas and tools that I can use on a day-to-day basis, which I think is a good indicator of the value of “Agile Excellence for Product Managers”. Definitely one I’d recommend to all product managers who are looking to apply Agile to their approach or processes.

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