Posts tagged google
Just hours after settling the FTC’s antitrust investigation of its business practices, Google has blocked all Windows Phones from accessing its Google Maps mobile site. The move represents the latest move in an escalating war between Google and Microsoft.
Navigating to maps.google.com on any Windows Phone 7 or 8 handset now redirects to Google’s homepage:
Google issued a response claiming that WP devices wouldn’t work because the Google Maps mobile site was only “optimized” for the WebKit browser engine used by Chrome and Safari, and not Internet Explorer [note: Gizmodo's assertion that the Google Maps mobile site has never worked on WP7/8 is incorrect]:
The mobile web version of Google Maps is optimized for WebKit browsers such as Chrome and Safari. However, since Internet Explorer is not a WebKit browser, Windows Phone devices are not able to access Google Maps for the mobile web.
This response is, however, problematic at best. Read on after the break to see why.
Google just announced that it’s purchasing Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion– the search giant’s biggest acquisition to date. Motorola Mobility is Motorola’s consumer division, which was spun off in January 2011 and primarily sells mobile phones and TV set-top boxes.
In a post on the official Google blog, CEO Larry Page wrote that the primary value Google sees in the acquisition is Motorola’s arsenal of 17,000 patents. In recent months, Apple, Microsoft, and others have sued prominent Android phone manufacturers like HTC, LG, and Samsung for patent infringement, with claims largely focusing on the Android OS. With little prior mobile experience, Google has few patents of its own to help defend its licensees. Motorola, on the other hand, has made millions of phones over the last few decades, accumulating a large patent portfolio along the way.
Most media outlets have reported that by licensing Motorola’s patents to Android manufacturers, Google will be able to help them defend against Apple and Microsoft, providing them the basis for counterclaims, resulting in mutually assured destruction and thus settlements freeing Android from patent troubles. The problem with this view is that Apple and Microsoft have already sued Motorola (see battle maps here and here); the cases are pretty far along and aren’t looking too great for Motorola at this point. If Motorola’s patents couldn’t protect it, then how will they shield the rest of Android-dom? And, as Florian Mueller writes, it’d indeed be quite ironic if, by the time the deal is approved, Google were to acquire a phone manufacturer that’s been banned from importing Android handsets into the U.S.
So clearly, patent protection from Apple and Microsoft is not the primary reason for the deal. If it were, Google could’ve just licensed Motorola’s patent portfolio (as Motorola shareholder Carl Icahn proposed just a few weeks ago). The fact that Google chose to purchase the entire company instead, and thus enter the phone hardware business itself, suggests a different modus operandi. So far, Google’s primary interest in the mobile space has been to increase access to its web services– that was the whole purpose of Android. But the company’s business practices on Android, from forcing licensees to use its services (see the Skyhook case– quite damning for a supposedly “open” platform) to giving only preferred partners early access to new versions of OS, suggest that Google wants a bigger slice of the mobile pie for itself.
Android licensees like LG, Samsung, and HTC are justifiably afraid of competing against the very company they get their phones’ operating system from. It’s unrealistic to imagine that Motorola would not gain a significant competitive advantage being under Google’s roof, and Google could easily decide to go vertical, creating Google-branded Android super-phones to match the iPhone’s tight hardware/software integration and leaving other Android licensees in the dust. An ancillary benefit for Google, of course, is that Motorola’s big presence in the TV set-top box market could be an entry point for its failing Google TV product.
One interesting provision of the deal is the reverse termination fee. If Google is unable to complete the deal, it must pay Motorola $2.5 billion– a fifth of the purchase price, four times the median for deals in the last year, and apparently the largest such fee in industry history. By contrast, if Motorola decides not to sell to Google, it must only pay $375 million. This seems to reflect Google’s desperation and Motorola’s concerns about regulatory hiccups– Google’s Android-related search business practices are already under FTC antitrust investigation.
Microsoft stands to benefit in that it can now market Windows Phone 7 as the only operating system OEMs can license without competing against the licensor’s own phones. Some believe Microsoft may follow Google’s move by acquiring Nokia (which is now a key partner on the Windows Phone platform). This is quite unlikely, especially if the Motorola deal motivates HTC, Samsung, and LG to put more effort into Windows Phone 7 (which they all offer but clearly place on the strategic backburner compared to Android). Microsoft wouldn’t gain anything beyond what it already has in Nokia (a high-quality hardware manufacturer exclusively committed to Windows Phone and armed with an immense patent portfolio), and besides, outside of Xbox, Microsoft still believes in the “ubiquity” strategy it used against Apple many years ago, mobilizing a whole industry of Windows-powered PC hardware manufacturers to destroy Apple’s bundled hardware-software offering.
RIM only gains in that the Google-Motorola deal kicks the mobile industry’s patent mess up a few notches, showing that the array of BlackBerry mobile patents is probably quite valuable. The issue is, however, that the only companies still interested in RIM’s IP would be firms that lack strong software portfolios and are looking to create their own phone OS (HTC or Samsung perhaps).
Time to sit back, grab some popcorn, and watch the tech giants duke it out for mobile supremacy.
Announcing the largest deal in its 36 year history, Microsoft said earlier today that it would acquire internet telephony firm Skype for $8.5 billion, all-cash. The Redmond software giant will integrate Skype into Xbox, Kinect, and Windows Phone, along with its Outlook/Lync/Exchange enterprise platform. The company is investing heavily in mobile technology, and integrating the world’s most popular VoIP voice/video chat service should give that effort a shot in the arm, while also further extending the company’s enterprise leadership. Microsoft says Skype users who don’t run Windows or Windows Phone shouldn’t worry, as it will continue to “to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms.”
Skype’s current CEO, Tony Bates, will head the new Microsoft Skype Division, reporting directly to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Skype boasts 663 million users worldwide, and its users made 207 billion minutes of voice and video calls last year. Most of these calls, however, were free, which has made it difficult for the company to make money since it was founded in 2003.
Rumors swirled over the last few weeks that Google was looking to buy Skype, but an IPO was the most likely option, so Microsoft’s offer had to be high enough to convice Skype shareholders that life in the Microsoft fold would be better– hence the hefty price premium. Microsoft is an investor in Facebook, which may now be able to tap into Skype’s network via Microsoft. Apple appears to be building massive server capacity to make a big telecommunications play (perhaps by extending its current FaceTime video chat service), and Google of course has its Google Voice service, so we’re likely to see a three-way internet telecom battle between the Microsoft-Skype-Facebook combine, Apple, and Google.
eBay first bought Skype in 2005 for $2.5 billion, but having found little potential for synergies, it sold off most of the company to an investment group led by Silver Lake in 2009 at a valuation of $2.75 billion. Microsoft’s purchase price today is over three times that. With this deal, Skype will gain a permanent home and likely a central role in Microsoft’s bid to gain prominence in Internet services and the mobile arena. Microsoft has an estimated $48 billion in cash reserves, and the Skype deal would be its largest deal in 36 years. The operating system giant’s last big-ticket acquisition was its $6 billion purchase of online ad firm aQuantive in 2007. The Skype deal has been approved by both companies’ boards of directors and is expected to close by the end of the year.
Press release after the break.
TA Maps is a mapping solution that uses sources like Google Maps and OpenStreetMap and gives better coverage in many parts of the world than Bing Maps. It includes:
- Scrollable/zoomable maps
- Street/satellite views
- GPS location tracking
- Favorite locations
- Driving mode (keeps map centered on GPS location)
- GPS sensitivity settings
- Smoothly restores your last map view and pushpins
We will be adding features like driving directions, additional map/search sources, and more point-of-Interest data in upcoming updates.
Two days before the Nokia-Microsoft alliance was announced, Google’s Vic Gundotra attacked the two companies by tweeting that “two turkeys do not make an Eagle.” Now Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop has responded with a tweet saying “two bicycle makers from Dayton Ohio, one day decided to fly”– referencing the Wright brothers.
Separately, Elop and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer provided some more details on the deal. The arrangement is not exclusive– Microsoft will continue to work with other phone manufacturers on Windows Phone 7, though Nokia will get some “unique” benefits out of the deal. When asked if Nokia would be able to customize “everything” on Windows Phone 7 (unlike current WP7 licensees), Elop said yes, but clarified that Nokia was unlikely to do so, as it preferred maintaining full compatibility across the Windows Phone platform.
Read on for more details.
Observers have been wondering what Nokia’s next step will be following its CEO’s Burning Platform memo yesterday. The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported this morning that Nokia is in talks with Microsoft to license the latter’s Windows Phone 7 operating system for use in its devices and that a deal may be announced at an event in London tomorrow. The company has also been in talks for several months with Google about its Android OS, which seem not to have panned out. Google’s flamboyant VP of Engineering, Vic Gundotra, posted a tweet yesterday presumably bashing Nokia and Microsoft after the Android negotiations fizzled:
Nokia’s new CEO Stephen Elop, formerly of Microsoft, just sent out a fairly devastating internal memo to all Nokia employees. It’s a brutally honest portrayal of the mess the company is in and an interesting example of how to kickstart a company that on the surface appears to be doing fine (positive growth, still the largest market share globally) but actually faces serious threats that it has failed to address.
On the smartphone front, Nokia’s lead has severely eroded thanks to modern platforms like the iPhone and Google’s Android OS, which Nokia’s Symbian platform is still not competitive with and its Maemo OS has yet to battle. In emerging markets, its long-standing lead has been eaten up by Chinese manufacturers (many based on the city of Shenzhen, a famed hub of knock-off electronics).
- “Chinese OEMs are cranking out a device much faster than, as one Nokia employee said only partially in jest, ‘the time that it takes us to polish a PowerPoint presentation.’”
- “The first iPhone shipped in 2007, and we still don’t have a product that is close to their experience. Android came on the scene just over 2 years ago, and this week they took our leadership position in smartphone volumes. Unbelievable.”
- “Our competitors aren’t taking our market share with devices; they are taking our market share with an entire ecosystem.”
- “We poured gasoline on our own burning platform. I believe we have lacked accountability and leadership to align and direct the company through these disruptive times. We had a series of misses. We haven’t been delivering innovation fast enough. We’re not collaborating internally. Nokia, our platform is burning.”
- “They changed the game, and today, Apple owns the high-end range.”
- “Google has become a gravitational force, drawing much of the industry’s innovation to its core.”
Full memo after the break- it’s worth a read.
Vying for the title of the most customizable smartphone ever made, HTC’s legendary HD2 can now triple-boot Windows Phone 7, Android, and Windows Mobile 6.5, courtesy to posters at XDA-Developers. The 4.3″ phone, grandfather of HTC’s current large phones, has similar specs to today’s high-end smartphones (1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon, 512 MB RAM) and runs all three OSes smoothly (not at the same time though).
The triple-boot system entails running Windows Mobile 6.5 as the native OS, with Android and Windows Phone 7 installed on the phone’s MicroSD card. See the thread for instructions on how to make sure you’re cooler than people who have just two OSes on their phones.
Windows Phone 7 now fully works on the phone (earlier issues with accessing Windows Live services like the Marketplace have been solved). The HD2 has also seen ports of Ubuntu and Meego, so we could soon see a quad- or penta-OS HD2.
Google just announced on its Chromium blog that it will be removing support for the H.264 video codec from the Chrome web browser, in favor of supporting only its own open WebM codec (which, as we covered earlier, is based on On2 Technologies’ VP8) for HTML5 web videos using the <video> tag.
Earlier, Microsoft, Apple, and Google had decided to support H.264 (the dominant high-definition video codec) for HTML5 web video, while Mozilla and Opera supported only Google’s WebM codec. Now, Google’s move leaves Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9 and Apple’s Safari 5 as the only major browsers supporting the H.264 codec without plugins. Ironically, since the vast majority of HTML5 video on the web today is encoded using H.264, Google’s move will likely reduce the usable installed base of HTML5 video-capable browsers.
Read on for more about Google’s web video codec move.
Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 OS ships with an integrated Bing Maps client, but Bing’s map data is lacking in many parts of the world. Unfortunately Google does not have a maps client for Windows Phone 7 yet, so some WP7 users are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
We’ve come up with (the start of) a solution: TechAutos Maps is a basic Google Maps client for Windows Phone 7. It’s meant as a temporary solution until Google releases its official app (hopefully soon), and is still missing lots of features (POI search, favorites, etc.), but some users might find it useful even in its current shape. TA Maps must be side-loaded (i.e. not from the Marketplace), so it requires unlocking your WP7 phone (see instructions).
See here for more info, screenshots, and installation instructions: TechAutos Maps for Windows Phone 7