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Nokia after Nokia: Rise of the phoenix!

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on November 22, 2013

Nokia’s not finished, Nokia’s device division is going out with a bang, and while most view Nokia as a device-less company once the Microsoft deal closes in Q1 2014, this post delves into the other halves of Nokia and the tricks up its sleeve.

Microsoft paid $7.2bln for the Nokia devices and services portfolio – expected to close by Q1, 2014. However the other “not so significant” parts of Nokia could provide the value up end in the next 2-5years horizon.

While Nokia hasn’t really created any splash around its Lumia range of smartphones, but it is in the process of diversifying portfolio to phablets, tablets and wearables (smartwatch). Wearables alone are expected to number 485million by 2015. However, analysts and industry mavens are betting their monies on Nokia diversifying its portfolio from phones to “any communication” device. This includes amongst others cloud operated devices, sensors and receivers powering the Internet of things.

However it is the alternate portfolio of Nokia that is particularly interesting-

1. Nokia Networks which contributes to 90% of the Nokia (minus devices and services) is a key holder of 4G patents and has been on a comeback trail with associations with Sprint, US Cellular, T Mobile working out post the Nokia takeover of the better half. Nokia Networks also has a good patent portfolio in the 5G space and is expected to be a network driver in this technology.

2. Here Maps – is possibly the unsung Hero in the Nokia portfolio. What started as acquisition of Navteq has ended up in a strong suit of solutions around Mapping- It allows Offline use, Augmented Reality wrappers and a good accuracy (compared to Apple atleast). However, it is Here Map’s telemetry portfolio that is the strongest asset – Here Maps can leverage a robust and long standing relationships with key car makers to push the solutions to driverless cars. Here maps is quite clearly a very strong alternative to Google maps.

3. Finally, Nokia has a good portfolio of patents. Nokia has allowed Samsung to continue licensing its patents for 5 years (2010-15), with a settlement amount to be determined by arbitration in 2015. Nokia will also receive additional compensation beginning in 2014. Given the number of smartphones that Samsung is selling, there is a significant windfall from this settlement that is due to Nokia. Nokia’s venture into 5G technology, self-driving cars, Graphene, and its current core holding of essential 4G patents should ensure royalty fees from many technology companies for years to come.

Bottomline – Nokia after Nokia looks to be a great series of propositions. Now then, do we expect the rise of the phoenix?

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Nokia-Microsoft – The real winner of the Apple-Samsung patent feud.

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on August 26, 2012

If the IBM PC was created in this patent environment there would be no Apple. They would have sued them out of existence.
If cars were invented today, one manufacturer would have a patent on using 4 wheels and all others had to pay a license fee for it.

While many have condemned the patent laws to be anti-thessis of innovation, the fact as of yesterday, the 25th of August 2012 remains that Apple has dealt a know-out blow on Samsung in the ongoing patent infringement case. Apple was awarded $1.05 billion for patent infringements by Samsung. Apple’s $1bln patent victory against Samsung is the third biggest patent victory. Centocor Ortho $1.67bln vs. Abbott Labs & Lucent $1.52bln vs Microsoft are higher. The current jury award of more than $1 billion isn’t going to kill Samsung, but the forthcoming possible injunctions against selling current devices is going to hurt Android more than anything. There are “others” who will re-evaluate the cost of licensing the patents on the ‘free’ Android OS.Expect Apple to be drafting invoices in the very near future.Most of these manufacturers will now want a fully licensed, covers all the patents and a user-accepted OS. The answer is obvious – the only alternative to Android is Microsoft. The timing is actually great for Microsoft too with Windows Phone 8 announcements coming in just a week and a half in New York.

As far as Samsung is concerned, the last thing Samsung will want to do is be left stranded in the courts holding their Android football while everyone else runs ahead to score with Windows Phone handsets. Nokia are all-in on the new platform, HTC could see it as a way to bypass Samsung’s dominance in Android, and both Huawei and ZTE are ready to leverage Microsoft’s OS. Samsung’s risk mitigation strategy of investing in multiple OSs and even in Windows will be very handy for them. Imagine where such a thing would leave Nokia, who are averse to distribute risks over multiple OSs.

Speaking of Nokia and Microsoft then – God could not have been kinder. 2 years into the Smartphone act, Microsoft was no-where with Windows and an year with Lumia, Nokia has barely cut through. Now Microsoft gets a few serious partners and Nokia benefits from an enhanced interest in the Windows phone. While there are many other factors that have benefitted Nokia’s share proce which has increased by 78% in the last month, the patent battle would be one of the underlying factors for the spike at Nokia.

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Overall, Apple took the victory, Samsung lost in court, but the true winner looks to be Microsoft.

Android’s patent quagmire (Part I)

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on December 18, 2011

RELENTLESS ASSAULT! Android faces the spectre of being under seige under continuous patent lawsuits filed in by rivals from Oracle to Apple , Microsoft and BT. After taking the smartphone sphere by a storm and garnering 50% and more market share , Android mobile OS is stumbling through a legal minefield. It does appear that in a tearing hurry to address markets, Google didnot read through the legal fine print.

About 40 different lawsuits have been filed against Google and its partners for various intellectual property issues relating to the Android. Many of these lawsuits stem from non-practicing entities (aka patent trolls), but several of these lawsuits come from large competitors. There is basically no way to build a smartphone that doesn’t infringe on someone else’s patents, either knowingly or unknowingly, because there are simply too many of them, intellectual property experts say. What a company must do is prevent any obvious infringements in areas that are essential to the platform’s functionality, and amass a patent portfolio so large that lawsuits can be met with something more than empty words. Basically it’s all-out war and you come to the war with your stacks of patents, and Google didn’t have as much as the other companies. That’s why it’s being hurt today.

With Android becoming mainstream before Google amassed enough patents to protect it, the company tried to solve the problem by waving money at it. Google’s attempts to buy the patent portfolio from bankrupt Nortel failed, with a consortium including Apple, Microsoft, and RIM putting together the winning package of $4.5 billion. Stymied, Google decided to buy Motorola Mobility and its portfolio of 17,000 patents worldwide, for a premium price of $12.5 billion.

Plain and simple, Google didnot see the patents storm coming and was grossly underprepared for the legal minefield. Desperate times call for desperate moves and Google tried acquiring the Nortel portfolio of patents for $4.5bln and ultimately ended up acquiring Motorola Mobility’s patent set for $12.5 bln. Many believe the price was a stretch.Pending the regulatory approval, the Motorola portfolio has at least 18 key patents for Google, covering location services, antenna designs, e-mail transmission, touchscreen motions, application management, and 3G wireless.

To be concluded

Impact Analysis: Google buys out Moto (Part IV- Would the operator become more redundant)

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on August 21, 2011

Read Part I, Part II and Part III

Google is pulling off an acquisition that is larger than any that Microsoft, Apple, or any of their other main competitors ever have. The Moto acquisition is either the smartest thing Google has ever done, or the dumbest. A $12.5 billion deal in cash, with a $2.5 billion collapse clause? There is no in-between
In a series of blogs over the next few days, I would be analyzing the impact of the Google-Moto deal in terms of:
1. Patents Leverage
2. Platform/Hardware Competence
3. Eco-system view
4. Impact on Telcos

Impact on Telcos

There are some interesting potential side effects of this deal, such as in the broader consumer electronics space. Motorola could help Google turn around the disaster that has been Google TV. Motorola makes a huge percentage of the set top boxes that the cable companies use to push their over-priced content at you.

This then brings us to another interesting fall-out of this deal- How will the telcos react to Google taking over the role of content provider as well as the device maker. Google has long harboured intent of becoming a media business with emphasis on the content delivery. Google would still be riding on the Telco pipes, which would further re-inforce dumb pipe syndrome. This deal is just another blow to the traditional telcos, pushing them further towards commoditization and being a pipe. How will they fight back? Is their future only in providing the connection? This will be interesting.

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Impact Analysis: Google buys out Moto (Part III- Impact on the present day partners and eco-system)

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on August 17, 2011

Read Part I and Part II

Google is pulling off an acquisition that is larger than any that Microsoft, Apple, or any of their other main competitors ever have. The Moto acquisition is either the smartest thing Google has ever done, or the dumbest. A $12.5 billion deal in cash, with a $2.5 billion collapse clause? There is no in-between

In a series of blogs over the next few days, I would be analyzing the impact of the Google-Moto deal in terms of:
1. Patents Leverage
2. Platform/Hardware Competence
3. Eco-system view/ Impact on OEM partners
4. Impact on Telcos

Eco-system view/ Impact on OEM partners

Google says they will continue to run Motorola as a separate business. Again, given its size, that’s about all they can do. Google also says that this will not change their commitment to Android being “open” and to their other OEM partners. Another compelling argument in favour of the Google-Moto deal is that, this is a strategic buy for Google in order to exert more control over the Android eco-system. Google says they will continue to run Motorola as a separate business. Again, given its size, that’s about all they can do. Google also says that this will not change their commitment to Android being “open” and to their other OEM partners. Many including myself, however, believe that it will not be very practical and possible to keep the Android “open” and as impartial given the $12.5 investment in Moto. Beneath all the sweet talk with the other partners, all the larger partners of the eco-system are disingenuous with their positive statements and sentiments. Carrots rarely work in the “open” Android eco-system. With Motorola in their back pocket, Google now has another stick to use when the carrots don’t work: Control on the Google device. With Moto, Google has the capability and competence in devices, which in turn is pretty handy to apply to pressure the other OEMs to force them to do better work.

What this means for the other significant partners of the Android eco-system: Samsung, Sony-Ericsson and HTC. There are two points on that
1. The OEMs were not dumb not to have anticipated this move. Thus Samsung moved into making the Bada.
2. The World of OEMs would now split into Loyalists (Moto for Android, Nokia for Microsoft) and the multi-platform vendors (Samsung, HTC, SE). This move could drive some of those OEMs to give a second look at Windows Phone as Android alternatives. Microsoft will have to deliver a truly competitive consumer mobile operating system to take advantage of this opportunity and chip away a few of the big OEMs from the Android camp.

With the loyalists (Samsung, SE and HTC) now moving into frienemy space, Android may loose some momentum in the numbers that it kept on pilling for sometime now. The decider or qualifier for Android’s success will be the pace of Android’s extension across multiple other platforms, eco-systems and device categories. For instance, Google TV will necessarily have to fire to keep the Android registers ringing… V2V systems will be another decider in terms of number of Android activations. The trade-off that Android will have is its capability to extend across platforms versus the rate at which its partners desert it.

Impact Analysis: Google buys out Moto (Part II- Made for each other)

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on August 16, 2011

Read Part I

Google is pulling off an acquisition that is larger than any that Microsoft, Apple, or any of their other main competitors ever have. The Moto acquisition is either the smartest thing Google has ever done, or the dumbest. A $12.5 billion deal in cash, with a $2.5 billion collapse clause? There is no in-between

In a series of blogs over the next few days, I would be analyzing the impact of the Google-Moto deal in terms of:
1. Patents Leverage
2. Platform/Hardware Competence
3. Eco-system view
4. Impact on Telcos

Platform/Hardware Competence

On one hand, Google and the Android OEMs share the common objective of maximizing Android activations. However with this one deal, Google is now a powerful, wealthy competitor, one that is impatient with the long lead times in the hardware business.

Nexus Prime is the next Google Flagship smartphone on the horizon.. and while Google maintains that the vendor for each of its Smartphones is chosen through a democratic process, and the process might as well be as democratic as ever, Google’s acquisition of Moto gives it the necessary competences it was lacking in devices. One way or another, the existence of Motorola as a Google company is going to affect Android and its current device partners. The key here is Control. After all, its the tight control over both hardware and software is what allows Apple products to be Apple products.

Earlier, Google used to not care about design, but now is starting to which is why the Nexus series was born in the first case. I suspect Google’ll (or already has) start to care more about full control over their products — both hardware and software. They’ll see that the overall consumer experience is tied to both — they’re not mutually exclusive. And Motorola gives them the opportunity to fully explore this.

An integrated offering is the new mobile nirvana. Apple controls the software and hardware for its phones. Android from Google is popular but splintered. Google can now set a hardware/software agenda. Also doing rounds is the rumour that Google is working at making an ad sponsored software model for mobility. Moto can provide a platform for sponsorship. The Moto-Google partnership can also provide an ideal integrated platform for the go-to-mobile video solution that is being prepared by Google for YouTube.

Google’s penchant for control of the device experience is a great initiative. However, how it goes down with its current partners is an answer that will unfold in times to come.

To be continued

Impact Analysis: Google buys out Moto (Part I- Of Lawsuits and Patents)

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on August 15, 2011

Google is pulling off an acquisition that is larger than any that Microsoft, Apple, or any of their other main competitors ever have. The Moto acquisition is either the smartest thing Google has ever done, or the dumbest. A $12.5 billion deal in cash, with a $2.5 billion collapse clause? There is no in-between

In a series of blogs over the next few days, I would be analyzing the impact of the Google-Moto deal in terms of:
1. Patents Leverage
2. Platform/Hardware Competence
3. Eco-system view
4. Impact on Telcos

Of Lawsuits and Patents

Google justified its investment in Motorola as an effort to “protect Android and its eco-system” from Apple, Microsoft and others. This will provide more balance and a better defensive position for Android, which was getting killed in court. Google CEO Larry Page wrote in an Aug. 15 corporate blog posting. “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.”

This deal is clearly about patents. If Motorola didn’t have thousands of patents, there is no way this deal would have happened. For Google to have bid 63% premium for Motorola (at $12.5bn with a $2.5bn disengagement penalty), inspite of the fact that Moto is loosing money, is doubling Google’s headcount and is in a severe quagmire in terms of lawsuits, patents have been the overwhelming cause. In losing the Nortel patent auction to Apple, Microsoft, RIM, and others, Google lost out on 6,000+ patents. With a battle over the InterDigital patents just getting started, there was a pretty decent chance they were going to lose another 8,800+ to their rivals. But with the Motorola buy, Google gains at least 17,000 patents. And if some other applications go through, perhaps as many as 25,000 patents. In one fell-swoop. Crazy.

It raises Google’s patent pool from around 2,000 — over 1,000 of which are from a deal they just did with IBM — to around 20,000. That’s around what Microsoft has. And nearly double what Apple has.

However, its not the number. Motorola’s patent pool may not go far enough to cancel out some key patents owned by Google’s main rivals: Apple and Microsoft. Apple and Microsoft, have the upper hand in most of the critical patents. That is something that the Google lawyers will have to figure out in terms of defending the Moto patent turf. In any case, 17,000 is a leverage and Google has the capability for to better leverage that number compared to Moto.

It can also be seen as defensive strategy from Google. Google buying Motorola out could also be a response to stop Moto from settling with Apple and/or Microsoft on the patent issues. Such a settlement would have been a big blow to the entire Android ecosystem. Perhaps not quite as bad as Samsung agreeing to license patents from Microsoft (joining HTC and others), but bad. Microsoft was also negotiating to buy at least Motorola’s patent portfolio.
Google’s acquisition could also drive its competitors into buying frenzies of their own. RIM suddenly becomes very valuable for its patent horde. HP, Apple or Microsoft should quickly move to buy RIM for its patents and also [BlackBerry Enterprise Server], the crown jewel.

to be continued

Microsoft’s marriage to surface computing: Risking Redundancy?

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems by Manas Ganguly on February 12, 2009
U.S. Patent No. 7,479,950 was awarded to Microsoft for a application which tracks position of gadgets and applications on the screen of a computer.

Incidentally, this patent was Microsoft’s 10000th. So far, so good. However, it increasinly begins to look like Microsoft is obatianing and getting patents in a territories which will not find much takers. Surface computing. With the trend moving to the clouds, OSs diminishing, Browsers and web apps getting more potent , Microsoft is increasingly finding its users vacating their seats. Even if nothing, the browsers are migrating to “available for free” instead of a Microsoft License. The Web 2.0 with its freetardonomics principles is something that Microsoft will have to figure out!
So long for Patents!
Interestingly, earlier patents were used a legal aids with which a corporation would defend its turf. Lately however, the trend has changed and Patents are being used as bridges to collaborate with others in developmental stages of new products/technologies! Microsoft has been at this. However, the cloud and  the web 2.0 seem to make the software gaint redundant faster than Microsoft would like it!
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