Google stunned the tech world last week when it tied the knot with Motorola for $12.5 billion. But it's the music business that should be raising its brows at the union.
Like any typical suitor, Google weighed Motorola's considerably large assets in its decision to get in bed with the mobile giant. On one side of this pairing is Motorola Mobility, a pioneering cell-phone company with more than 17,000 patents.
On the other is Google, which commands roughly 40 percent of the Android market share. Both already had a successful fling when they teamed up on the Droid X and the Motorola Xoom; imagine the damage they could do long-term.
There are a million and one new developments that could result from this matrimony, ranging from mobile technology to music and TV. A couple interesting ones below:
Patents Portfolio: Many tech experts believe that Google made this deal primarily to gain access to Motorola's vast patent portfolio. Sounds about right. Before the Motorola deal, Google was in danger of being chased off the Android playground, what with Apple hammering their competition with infringement lawsuits.
Which is why Google wants Motorola's patents more than it wants Motorola. It makes sense, since Motorola practically invented cellphones. Motorola brings 83 years of expertise and dizzying mess of Android patents to the table. They pioneered flip phones in the 90s, and enjoyed moderate popularity with the RazR in the 2000s. Sure, that thing was butt-ugly, but it was the "cool" phone before iPhones and Androids.
This isn't to say that Google won't face stiff competition. Apple still rules the smartphone market, which means that MP3s and other streaming content will likely reach more iPhone fans than Droid users. But Motorola's patents should give Google a new place at the smartphone table.
Google Cloud: Google's music service, Cloud, is still in beta, but you can request an invitation via the service's website. The service automatically uploads your personal music collection, including iTunes and all those playlists you made for your crush, and keep everything in one place. You can store up to 20,000 songs, which is double what Amazon offers. Oh, and it's free. If Google is smart, it will incorporate aspects of Motorola Mobility into the music service.
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Music Streaming: With Spotify, Rhapsody, and iTunes battling for music streaming supremacy, Google has a chance to blind-side them. Expect a streaming service (some incarnation of cloud seems feasible) that could be synced with Google smartphones. It will take some time but if there's a company that can give Apple a scare in this field, it's Google.
The handicap to music industry innovation isn't technology, it's the obsolete business models originally designed to stifle competition. For the longest time, major labels couldn't risk the economic transition from profitable CDs to MP3s.
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Now that they absolutely have to, tech giants like Apple, Microsoft, and increasingly Google offer incentives to change those business models. Google and Motorola Mobility have the tools to change the rules: A treasure trove of patents, the possibility of vertical integration, tech expertise, and a shit-ton of market share.
Google, more than ever, has a chance to become a serious player in music. Someday you could be listening to a Google-distributed artist on your cloud-enabled Google smartphone while googling yourself on your Motorola-laced tablet. In the famous words of Kevin Garnett, anything is possible.