A post on the FOSS Patents blog yesterday caused a considerable amount of buzz when blogger Florian Mueller shared his interpretation of information gleaned from lawsuit filings in Oracle vs. Google. But, as TechCrunch’s Jason Kinkaid pointed out, the conclusions Mueller draws aren’t as alarming as all that.
The thrust of it is thus: Since Google has already stated in the past that they gave access to Android software to some device manufacturers earlier than others, Mueller contends that of course they’ll do this with Motorola Mobility no that they own the company, thus cutting everyone else off at the knees. As Kincaid points out, this argument doesn’t hold, because it’s not a secret that Google works with certain manufacturers to create flagship devices that come to market first. HTC with the Nexus One, Samsung with the Nexus S, and Motorola with the Xoom.
Mueller updated the post to answer these counterarguments from Kinkaid and others, stating:
The key revelation is Google’s mentioning of a “time to market advantage”: it’s the competitive impact that matters here. The competitiveness of the Nexus phones was always very limited because they run what some call “stock Android” (the original Android code as Google itself publishes it) without the extensions that OEMs put on top. Those extensions, however, are very important to the user experience. And Google’s statement about the “time to market advantage” is an unequivocal commitment to distortions of competition in favor of preferred OEMs who would certainly not just sell “stock Android” but also put their own extensions on top (which is also what MMI will do post-acquisition). That’s why the Nexus always appealed to only a certain audience and didn’t constitute a fundamental threat to all other OEMs’ businesses.
Despite this, I’m not as convinced as Mueller that the information in these documents spells certain doom for non-Motorola Mobility handset manufacturers.
The full effect on consumers isn’t likely to be felt immediately, as this will all take time to shake out. But perhaps we’re seeing an inkling of the future with the recent announcement of new Samsung smartphones running the Bada OS. At first glance, Bada might look like Android, but it’s a different operating system. It has access to an app store, Samsung Apps, and does everything you’d expect a smartphone to do. All controlled by Samsung.
Given the cookie-cutter responses from handset makers when the Motorola Mobility acquisition announcement was made, I doubt we’ll hear from them on this issue directly right now. The answer may come in the form of released products.
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