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Industry and analysts give mixed reaction to Google-Motorola merger

Industry technologists and analysts have expressed mixed views of the impact of Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility on the TV business, with analysts diverging on whether there are synergies between Google TV and Motorola’s video arm and the needs of Motorola’s cable operator customer base.

Giles Cottle, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, said that he saw very little synergy between Google’s TV activities and Motorola Mobility’s video solutions arm. “Even the most [high end] Motorola set-top does not come close to the processing power of what Google supports, so straightforward integration would be difficult,” he told DTVE Daily. There are fundamental differences in the way Google and Motorola (and by extension, Motorola’s customers) view social TV, he said. While Motorola begins from the assumption that operators want to stay in control of the user interface and that social recommendation will most fruitfully be deployed via companion devices such as tablets, Google believes it should be an integrated part of the TV experience, “letting anyone access content from anywhere as long as Google can sell advertising on top of it,” said Cottle.

Cable operators, he said, “are not going to let Google anywhere near the set-top”, which remains a redoubt of pay TV that over-the-top operators have yet to breach. “It’s the last bastion of pay TV,” he said. From the other side, Google’s existing Google TV manufacturing partners were unlikely to take a favourable view either, as they were looking to leverage the platform to provide a platform that could deliver services that will compete with pay TV operators.

Colin Dixon, senior partner, advisory at TDG Research, meanwhile, argued that Motorola’s video solutions group would find it difficult to deal with “the Google culture of fast-moving technical innovation; where software release cycles are measured in hours and major technological efforts in a few months”.

Stephen Froehlich, senor analyst, consumer electronics, IMS Research, was on the other hand relatively upbeat. “IMS Research’s impression is that it maintained a corporate culture that was quite different from that found at the rest of Motorola – and we expect this to remain the case. But there are some key places where Google could add significant value to Motorola’s pay TV and home product portfolio,” said Froehlich, citing content search and discovery, where few pay TV operator have made great strides, low-cost energy-efficient data centres for to bring savings to cable operators, and cloud-based multiscreen services. “YouTube and Google TV provide an ideal server platform for cloud-based multiscreen services while Motorola is also a leader in home transcoding for home-based multiscreen service delivery. Combined with the above, it is certainly easy to imagine Motorola offering OTT-in-a-container,” he said.

From an industry perspective, Amino Communications CEO Andrew Burke said that OEMs such as Cisco and Pace would now view Google as a competitor rather than a partner. However, the bigger challenge for Google would be that service provider customers of Motorola would accelerate the need for them to decide whether Google was a friend or foe.

“Google will quickly start to embed Android and their services into their living room technology and I would expect a more compelling GoogleTV 2.0 to hit high street stores fairly soon,” said Burke.  “So does a customer like Comcast continue to use a technology supplier that is set to compete with them in retail?  Sitting in Google’s shoes, I would set my priorities as emulating and beating the Apple, n-screen, end-to-end model first and worrying about placating the existing Motorola customers a distant second.”