A Month To Remember In The World Of Tech


Traditionally a slow month, action-packed August was one for the record books, says Nicholas Kolakowski

August is typically regarded as one of the slower months, at least when it comes to tech news.

But this August? Not so much.

It started with Google’s announced intent to acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, a move that (if approved) will fundamentally alter the smartphone game.

“We recently explained how companies, including Microsoft and Apple, are banding together in anti-competitive patent attacks on Android,” Google CEO Larry Page wrote in a 15 August corporate blog posting, soon after news of the intended acquisition became public. “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.”

The question is whether the acquisition will disturb other device manufacturers enough to sway them away from Android. Microsoft certainly hopes so, with company executives raising the spectre of Motorola Mobility as Google’s favored child—while promoting the idea of Windows Phone as an equal-opportunity software platform. “Investing in a broad and truly open mobile ecosystem is important for the industry and consumers alike,” Andy Lees, president of Microsoft’s Windows Phone division, wrote in a statement soon after Google announced its news, “and Windows Phone is now the only platform that does so with equal opportunity for all partners.”

Google’s move could also drive competitors into buying frenzies of their own. “RIM suddenly becomes very valuable for its patent horde,” Ray Wang, principal analyst and CEO of Constellation Research, wrote in a 15 August email to eWEEK. “HP, Apple or Microsoft should quickly move to buy RIM for its patents and also [BlackBerry Enterprise Server], the crown jewel.”

HP’s dramatic change of direction

If that wasn’t enough excitement for the tech community, Hewlett-Packard then decided to announce it was changing course, with plans to shed its PC manufacturing arm on the way to becoming an enterprise-focused software and services company in the mold of IBM.

As part of that shift, two of HP’s most prominent recent projects—its TouchPad tablet and nascent smartphone franchise—would need to die.

“HP reported that it plans to announce that it will discontinue operations for webOS devices, specifically the TouchPad [tablet] and webOS phones,” read the 18 August statement released by the company ahead of its most recent earnings call. “HP will continue to explore options to optimize the value of webOS software going forward.”

Some analysts saw HP’s move away from PCs as indicative of a larger trend within the industry.

“HP just abdicated playing a role in the mobility revolution except from the air-conditioned comfort of the cloud data center. This move makes Google’s acquisition of Motorola look prescient,” Yankee Group analyst Carl Howe wrote in a 19 August research note. “We are witnessing the final collapse of the Silicon Valley PC era.”

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