Is Google’s Acquisition of Motorola Mobility an Attempt to Control Location Biz? - GPS World

Is Google’s Acquisition of Motorola Mobility an Attempt to Control Location Biz?

September 13, 2011  - By
Image: GPS World

Google is at it again. This time Motorola Mobility is on the buying block. What does this mean to the location-based services market? Another potential location platform market closed off? Some industry experts believe this is the case. In addition, Iridium and TeleNav are making LBS news with recent product launches and acquisitions.


The recent $12.5-billion Google acquisition of Motorola Mobility has some industry experts saying that the location market piece of pie is getting smaller every time the search giant makes a deal.

“I think with Google controlling both the hardware and software stack of the Android ecosystem it will be hard for any technology company to work with Motorola. They want to own the whole shooting match for themselves,” said Ted Morgan, Skyhook Wireless CEO.

Boston-based Skyhook is suing Google for allegedly using tactics to block Motorola Mobility and Samsung from contracts that use the company Wi-Fi-based tracking system in Android smartphones.

Many industry experts have said that the main makers of Google Android smartphones should feel challenged as well as the company has seemingly gone into business against them.

Google has made many moves into the location business in the last two years. It is trying to grab a large share of the European traffic market by offering real-time services in 13 European companies. Google shook up the navigation market with free navigation service for Android phones in 2009. Last month, LBS Insider detailed Google’s purchase of The Dealmap, which offers a location-based daily deal service.

Google’s acquisition of Motorola is another step in a development strategy that appears to be aimed at increasing the company’s ability to compete across multiple markets that are served by mobile computing, said Mike Dobson, Telemapics president, author of Exploring Local. “[This is] supplemented by the company’s ability to supply its customers proprietary content that can provide a unique and informed world view whether those customers are at home or on the road exploring new geographies,” he said.

Dobson says that Google clearly wants to compete on a level playing field with Apple and appears to feel that the only way they can do so is to acquire one of the premier manufacturers of mobile phones. “While Google had hoped to control the mobile market by developing Android, doing so has not allowed them the gather the strategic control of phone design, pricing, positioning, placement, or distribution,” he said. “Conversely, Apple has been able to bring mobile phones to the marketplace whose features, functionality, and looks have generated a design revolution that has enchanted consumers in a manner dissimilar to anything we have ever seen in the mobile marketplace.”

Although Motorola’s brand has been tarnished in recent years, it is clearly the case that they are an extraordinarily talented developer of popular mobile devices that continue to stretch to boundaries of the capabilities of the cell phone world, said Dobson, who believes that this is evidenced by the fervor of anticipation surround the current release of the dual-core, 4G LTE compatible Motorola Droid Bionic.

Motorola’s design team, however, does not appear to understand the consumer mobile phone market with the same ability to interleave design and hardware functionality that is the hallmark of all Apple products, including the iPhone. “Nor do I believe that Google has the capabilities, as of this time, at least, to remedy this situation,” he said.

Dobson said that Google’s proposed acquisition of Motorola, coupled with those like its acquisition of Zagat’s and proposed acquisition of ITA Software, an airline ticketing company, seems to indicate that Google is interested not only in providing the platform and OS, but also the common content that might be of interest to users of their mobile devices. “When Google’s control of key content is wrapped within the control of the delivery platform and nested within the Internet’s most successful advertising delivery platform, AdSense/AdWord, it would appear that Google will have advantages in the mobile world far superior to any company that currently exists,” he said.

Now that the U.S. government has blocked AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile, all eyes are on Google’s newest purchase. Dobson has said that while it is impossible to estimate the size and data usage total that can be attributed to location services, there is little reason to assume that it does not mirror the growing trend in data growth.

At the time the AT&T/T-Mobile deal was announced, Dobson told LBS Insider that if AT&T can advantage itself by easing its spectrum crunch through the acquisition, it could result in the company being more interested in navigation and LBS than in the past.

Iridium Making LBS Foray

As GPS World reported, McLean, Va.-based Iridium Communications announced that its Iridium Force strategy will include LBS and M2M to grow its personal mobile satellite capabilities beyond satellite phones. The new capability enables communication with Wi-Fi-enabled devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops. The Iridium Extreme, which is the company’s smallest, will be connected to online portals with GPS and LBS capabilities.

The company also says that Iridum Tracking Portals allow customers to access location monitoring that show real-time status and location, scheduling regular check-ins, geo-fencing, and other features.

In a July interview with LBS Insider, Patrick Shay, Iridium vice president and general manager for data services, said that the machine-to-machine market constitutes the company’s fastest growing segment. The company said it reached 500,000 total billable subscribers for its satellite voice and data services worldwide. The breakdown of subscribers includes 90 percent commercial customers and 10 percent U.S. government customers.

TeleNav Buys LBS Firm Goby

In a smaller acquisition, of which financial details were not disclosed, TeleNav purchased Boston-based Goby, a local and travel search startup that focuses on mobile applications — and will look at advertising revenue models.

TeleNav has been tight-lipped about the acquisition, only saying that they are impressed with the small company and its personnel and technology. Published reports indicate that the company, and 10 employees, are staying in Boston.

About the Author: Kevin Dennehy

Kevin Dennehy is GPS World’s editor for location-based services, writing a monthly column for the LBS Insider newsletter. Dennehy has been writing about the location industry for more than 20 years. He covered GPS and location technology for Global Positioning & Navigation News for seven years. His articles on the wireless industry have been published in both consumer and trade magazines and newspapers.