Tag Archives: motorola

Google is now a hardware company as it announces acquisition of Motorola Mobility and its patents

Google is to acquire Motorola Mobility, a major manufacturer of Android handsets. Why? I believe this is the key statement:

We recently explained how companies including Microsoft and Apple are banding together in anti-competitive patent attacks on Android. The U.S. Department of Justice had to intervene in the results of one recent patent auction to “protect competition and innovation in the open source software community” and it is currently looking into the results of the Nortel auction. Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google’s patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies.

What are the implications? This will assist Google in the patent wars and perhaps give it some of the benefits of vertical integration enjoyed by Apple with iOS; though this last is a difficult point. The more Google invests in Google Motorola, the more it will upset other Android partners. Google CEO Larry Page says:

This acquisition will not change our commitment to run Android as an open platform. Motorola will remain a licensee of Android and Android will remain open. We will run Motorola as a separate business.

It is unlikely to be so simple; and the main winner I foresee from today’s announcement is Microsoft. Nokia’s decision to embrace Windows Phone rather than Android looks smarter today, since for all its faults Microsoft has a history of working with multiple hardware vendors. The faltering launches of HP’s TouchPad and RIM’s PlayBook have also worked in Microsoft’s favour. I do not mean to understate Microsoft’s challenge in competing with Apple and Android, but I believe it has a better chance than either HP or RIM, thanks to its size and existing market penetration with Windows.

Microsoft will be clarifying its mobile and slate strategy next month at the BUILD conference.

Today’s announcement is also a sign that Google takes Android’s patent problems seriously, as indeed it should. The company’s policy of act first, seek forgiveness later seems to be unravelling. Oracle has a lawsuit against Google with respect to use of Java in Android that looks like it will run and run. FOSS patent expert Florian Mueller argues today that Android also infringes the Linux license, and that this is a problem that cannot easily be fixed. Samsung’s latest Galaxy Tab has been barred from the EU; not entirely a Google issue, but it runs Android.

Note of clarification: Google is acquiring Motorola Mobility, not the whole of Motorola. In January 2011 Motorola split into two businesses. Motorola Mobility is one, revenue in second quarter 2011 around $3.3 billion. The other is Motorola Solutions, revenue in second quarter 2011 around $2 billion.

Apple announces slightly better iPad, world goes nuts

Apple CEO Steve Jobs says the iPad 2, announced today, is “magical, revolutionary and at an unbelievable price”.

The new iPad is dual-core, has front and back cameras, and a new magnetic cover which also forms a stand. It is also 33% thinner and 15% lighter.


These are nice improvements, but the truth is that it will not be very different from the first one.

It was enough though for the press to announce catastrophe for the competition:

Larry Dignan on ZDNet:

Apple just ensured that the other tablets are dead on arrival.

James Kendrick on ZDNet:

Here’s all you need to know about the iPad 2: it’s thinner, lighter, faster, got cameras and is more capable than the iPad, for the same price. Apple had dominated the tablet wars with the original iPad, and with the iPad 2 it is game over … Apple will continue to maintain or grow its market share in the tablet space, and the competition will release tablets that are not as good and cost lots more than the iPad/iPad 2. Rarely does one company in the technology sector dominate a product category so totally as Apple does the tablet space.

I am still mulling this over. There is a lot to like about the iPad – convenience, design, long battery life – but there are also annoyances; and while Dignan and Kendrick may be right, I would like to think there will be healthy competition and that at least some of the interesting devices on show at Mobile World Congress earlier this month will find a market.

Another question is how the appearance of ever more powerful smartphones will influence the tablet market. It is hard to believe that the average person will carry three devices: smartphone, tablet, laptop. Personally I would like to get it down to one, which is why I find the Motorola Atrix an interesting concept: it plugs into a laptop-like external keyboard and screen when required.

Apple’s advantage though is its focus on quality and design, rather than features. Few other manufacturers have learned this lesson. There is always something not quite right; and rather than fix it, a new model six months later with something else not quite right.

There was something else interesting about today’s event. iMovie for iPad 2, priced at $4.99. What is happening to the price of software, and what are the implications for developers? Something I will explore in another post shortly.

Spare a thought for Microsoft. Remember Bill Gates, telling us that one day tablets would dominate portable computing? Fumbling tablet computing may have been Microsoft’s biggest mistake.

NVIDIA Tegra 2: amazing mobile power that hints at the future of client computing

Smartphone power has made another jump forward with the announcement at CES in Las Vegas of new devices built on NVIDIA’s new Tegra 2 package – a System on a Chip (SoC) that includes dual-core CPU, GPU, and additional support for HD video encoding and decoding, audio, imaging, USB, PCIe and more:


The CPU is the ARM Cortex-A9 which has a RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) architecture and a 32-bit instruction set. It also supports the Thumb-2 instruction set which is actually 16-bit. How is 16-bit an upgrade over 32-bit? Well, 16-bit instructions means smaller code, even though it gets translated to 32-bit instructions at runtime:

For performance optimised code Thumb-2 technology uses 31 percent less memory to reduce system cost, while providing up to 38 percent higher performance than existing high density code, which can be used to prolong battery-life or to enrich the product feature set.

The GPU is an “ultra low power” (ULP) 8-core GeForce. In essence, the package aims for high performance with low power consumption, exactly what is wanted for mobile computing.

Power is also saved by sophisticated power management features. The package uses a combination of suspending parts of the system, gating the clock speed, screen management, and dynamically adjusting voltage and frequency, in order to save power. The result is a system which NVIDIA claims is 25-50 times more efficient than a typical PC.

According to NVIDIA, Tegra 2 enables web browsing up to two times faster than competitors such as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8250 or Texas Instruments OMAP 3630 – though of course these companies also have new SoCs in preparation.

Tegra 2 is optimised for some specific software. One is the OpenGL graphics API. “The job of the GPU is to implement the logical pipeline defined by OpenGL”, I was told at an NVIDIA briefing.


I asked whether this meant that Tegra 2 is sub-optimal for Microsoft’s Direct X API; but NVIDIA says it is sufficiently similar that it makes no difference.

Nevertheless, Tegra 2 has been designed with Android in mind, not Windows. There are a couple of reasons for this. The main one is that Android has all the momentum in the market; but apart from that, Microsoft partnered with Qualcomm for Windows Phone 7, which runs on Snapdragon, shutting out NVIDIA at the initial launch. NVIDIA is a long-term Microsoft partner and the shift from Windows Mobile to Android has apparently cost NVIDIA a lot of time. The shift took place around 18 months ago, when NVIDIA saw how the market was moving. That shift “cost us a year to a year and a half of products to market”, I was told – a delay which must include changes at every level from hardware optimisation, to designing the kind of package that suits the devices Android vendors want to build, to building up knowledge of Android in order to market effectively to hardware vendors.

Despite this focus, Microsoft demonstrated Windows 8 running on Tegra during Steve Ballmer’s keynote, so this should not be taken to mean that Windows or Windows CE will not run. I still found it interesting to hear this example of how deeply the industry has moved away from Microsoft’s mobile platform.

Microsoft should worry. NVIDIA foresees that “all of your computing needs are ultimately going to be surfaced through your mobile device”. Tegra 2 is a step along the way, since HDMI support is built-in, enabling high resolution displays. If you want to do desktop computing, you sit down at your desk, pop your mobile into a dock, and get on with your work or play using a large screen and a keyboard. It seems plausible to me.

During the press conference at CES we were shown an example of simultaneous rich graphic gaming on PC, PlayStation 3, and Tegra 2 Smartphone.


Alongside Android, Tegra 2 is optimised for Adobe Flash. NVIDIA has been given full access to the source of the Flash player in order to deliver hardware acceleration.



Actual devices

What about actual devices? Two that were shown at CES are the LG Optimus 2X:


and the Motorola Atrix 4G:


Both sport impressive specifications; though the Guardian’s Charles Arthur, who attended a briefing on the Atrix 4G, expresses some scepticism about whether HD video (which needs a large display) and the full desktop version of FireFox are really necessary on a phone. Apparently the claimed battery life is only 8 hours; some of us might be willing to sacrifice a degree of that capability for a longer battery life.

Still, while some manufacturers will get the balance between cost, features, size and battery life wrong, history tells that we will find good ways to use these all this new processing and graphics power, especially if we can get to the point where such a device, combined with cloud computing and a desktop dock, becomes the only client most of us need.

NVIDIA says that over 50 Android/Tegra 2 products are set to be released by mid-2011, in tablet as well as Smartphone form factors. I’m guessing that at least some of these will be winners.