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Google's Bid For Motorola Changes Mobile Landscape

Originally published on August 17, 2011 4:59 am
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DAVID GREENE, Host:

Mr. Levy, welcome to the program.

STEVEN LEVY: My pleasure.

GREENE: You spent two years inside Google researching your book, so you know a lot about the company. What do you make of this acquisition and Google's aim here?

LEVY: But also Google solved the problem by thinking bigger. Instead of buying some patent portfolio, it bought a whole company. And it's almost doubled Goggle's size.

GREENE: Google had this operating system, the Android. It went into phones. You're saying that they needed some patents to protect that. But they had said as of 2004, we're not going into the phone business.

LEVY: Right. They said that in 2004. Then the next year they bought this small company called Android and started their mobile operating system, which offended one of their partners at the time, which was Apple, and led to a big rift between those two companies. Now they have told their Android partners we're not going to compete with you, and now they are competing.

GREENE: If we look at this as sort of the next chapter in a Google/Apple rivalry, you know, Apple sort of had the model. I mean, they had the iPhone. They have both the operating system and the hardware itself. Now that Google is sort of entering that realm of having both should Apple be worried?

LEVY: So I think Apple has to be, on one hand, a little concerned. But maybe Apple's going to sit back and say, well, let's see Google figure out how to change the culture of its company by integrating this other company and then figuring out how to deal with its partners who might be offended by this purchase.

GREENE: We had this landscape where Google had then Android system and they were working with phone companies, including Motorola, to install that system in the phone. Now that Google actually is going to own a phone company, Motorola, isn't there a pretty significant risk that other phone companies are going to view Google as a competitor and say, you know, take your Android and take it somewhere else. We're going to go to Apple.

LEVY: And then on the other hand, where else are they going to go? You think about it - the other alternatives, like Microsoft, charge money. The Android is free to carriers and to handset manufacturers.

GREENE: For consumers like us, what will this mean in coming years? Are we going to see a major difference in any way?

LEVY: Since Google likes to think big and be revolutionary, maybe they're thinking about doing something that's totally different in terms of a business model or maybe a design of a phone that we haven't seen before.

GREENE: So we could be seeing some commercial come out sometime soon. Look at this wild new Google-Motorola product.

LEVY: Right. Yeah. If you don't have a Goo phone, you don't have a Goo phone.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GREENE: Steven Levy is a senior writer at Wired magazine. Thanks so much for joining us.

LEVY: Thank you.

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GREENE: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.