Motogoogle

You've no doubt heard by now that Google's forked over somewhere in the neighborhood of $12.5 billion to acquire Motorola Mobility,  the mobile device business Motorola spun off at the beginning of this year. It might make last week's marriage of HTC and Beats seem like a dinner date by comparison, but it remains to be seen what it's impact will be for us end users.

Google promises the deal will "Supercharge Android, Enhance Competition, and Offer Wonderful User Experiences," and chief Larry Page sounds cheery: "I look forward to welcoming Motorolans to our family of Googlers," he writes on the company blog.

Reminds me a bit of something Kent Brockman once said, but whatever the atmosphere in house - and Google and the Android family certainly stand to benefit by the addition of the folks who brought out the first commercial mobile phone - commentators are focusing on the fact that the deal's real value for Google lies in Motorola's enormous mountain of patents - 17,000 of 'em.

Just look at it as a $12.5 billion insurance policy in an age of spiraling lawsuits for Apple/Samsung/Nokia/Microsoft and anyone else involved in the mobile-plus-desktop-plus-home-entertainment game that used to be called "convergence." As Google senior veep (and chief legal officer) David Drummond puts it, one of the main challenges for Google - and especially Android - nowadays is something resembling a war: a " a hostile, organized campaign against Android," mounted by competitors such as Apple and Microsoft.

So this is certainly part of the defense strategy. But is it more? What to make of Page's mention that "Motorola is also a market leader in the home devices and video solutions business" - could there be a big play for the living room? Chromebooks and Google TV may have been, well, slow starters, but with a more wide-ranging and unified Android ecosystem, could we see the OS (which Google promises to maintain as an open standard), with a new reference hardware platform backing up services like YouTube, Music and @Home, take root everywhere? Who knows? Stay tuned.

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