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By Tony Fish, AMF Ventures and member of Gerbsman Partners Board Of Intellectual Partners.

The changing face of mobile

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Surprised at the latest Google deal to acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5Bn, you should not be; Eric Schmidt was very clear back at MWC in FEB 2007 “Mobile Mobile Mobile” and since then Google has focussed both time and effort to deliver andriod (which was itself acquired).  When Schmidt stepped down in saying “ adult supervision no longer required” this left open the matured Larry Page to step up from being great at maths and a world leading entrepreneur, to take on the mantel of “world leading strategist and deal doer.”

This deal will be the discussion point for the next 3 months and already there are a lot of views circulating about what it means but there is no doubt that depending on your stance you can argue for change. However at Mobile 2 on 1st Sept in SFO – we get the first bite, why not join in

The Deal

Google purchased Motorola’s mobile business for $12.5 billion. In doing so, Google brought patents, hardware design, manufacturing and a seat at the patent table. However the context is… Oracle suing, Apple winning, eco-system struggling, Samsung annoyed and Microsoft attacking

Worthy of Note

Google has bought in cash and not shares.  This commitment will reduce their cash balance to $22bn from the mid thirties, but it is cash.  Given the issues that cash purchases delivered to telecoms in 2000/2001 this is an important fact as many ran into immediate issues and sold off key assets.  However, I expect the reason that this is cash is that Google are not expecting to hold the operational assets for long.  An equity purchase could have caused them problems from shareholders when they flip it assuming it completes in Q1 2012

Why now?

Porter 5 forces model is helpful here as it highlights the dynamic nature of the mobile market that Google faces.  Their power is low, their service fragmented and  they are being attacked.

Implications

This deal will be the discussion point for the next 3 months and already there are a lot of views circulating about what it means but there is no doubt that depending on your stance you can argue for change. However at Mobile 2 on 1st Sept in SFO – we get the first bite, why not join in.

Starting from the view of the world formed by ….

  • Operators – Deal does not change anything as we are the controllers of mobile – we keep all manufacturers below 30% market share and make sure it is a competitive supply market.  However, we are still worried about becoming bit pipe….
  • Oracle/ Sun/ Java – Defence needed as android has been beset with legal challenges from all sides, including a multibillion dollar lawsuit filed by Oracle, but Motorola patents are about wireless tech and unlikely to help.
  • Apple – By purchasing a manufacturer, Google has admitted it needs more than just a free operating system and loads of partners to compete with Apple: they need to duplicate Apple’s successes by totally controlling both the hardware and software of their devices.
  • OEM ‘s –  “Google has gone from partner to competitor.”
  • Media/ Content owners – According to Infonetics, Motorola Mobility was the leader in set-top box revenues last year, and was also tops in hybrid IP/QAM set-top boxes — that is, the boxes used by operators like Verizon that combine broadcast TV and over-the-top applications. By leveraging Motorola’s position with carriers, Google can better solidify its bid to expand Google TV and Android into the living room.”
  • Developers – At least there is one less system to deal with.

Scenarios and outcomes

  • The production shop – In this scenario Google keeps Motorola as is and starts to manufacture it owns handsets.  In reality this could provide short term stability to the fragmented andriod market place and show case devices and move into other screen based markets, but in the long run looks like a new Apple and being open is probably not a true option. Probability in long run 10% as this would not elevate Page to world class strategist who is just following Jobs view of the world.
  • The negotiator tactic –This is the company official line that the acquisition brings 17,000 patents (but are they relevant) to Google and enables them to robustly defend their mobile position and also expand.  It is a $12.5bn investment to get a seat at the table.  Strategically there is a lot of truth in this as mobile will dominate long term strategy and value. Probability in long run 25% as patents only last for a period….

Power to disrupt

Imagine Google takes the patents, yes they are useful to defend/ negotiate but also to empower others if free and open. This would reduce the power of others in the market and change the dynamics

Imagine Google keeps the patents and sells on production to Samsung to create a global partner across all screens

Imagine Google Wallet becomes the model – forget small transaction fees – lets go for user data in every model

Probability in long run 65% and Larry Page is now the best strategist in the world and did it without adult supervision.

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Here is an interresting article from Fortune´s Brainstorm Tech Blog.

“The biggest computing and networking companies in the world are getting bigger – and former partners are now fierce rivals. Is tech’s new strife good for customers?

The largest technology companies in the world are at war.

Sure, the executives who run Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Oracle, and others appear to play nice: Cisco touts the “regular dialogue” between its CEO, John Chambers, and IBM’s chief executive, Sam Palmisano. Ann Livermore, an HP executive vice president, spoke at Oracle’s annual customer event in October and extolled the virtues of their partnership. And because large customers buy software, gear, and services from all the tech giants, their staffs must work together to get computers and networks up and running.

Don’t be fooled by the handshakes and air kisses. Increasingly these titans are invading one another’s territories in a bid to grab as much of the $1.5 trillion in projected 2010 worldwide corporate tech spending as they possibly can — and it’s going to get bloody.

Customers have cut their tech purchases, and when they do loosen their purse strings, they are buying software and services that help them run their systems more cheaply. To boost sales and profits in this low-growth environment, technology companies are bulking up by buying companies in entirely new businesses.

The endgame? Each aims to steal business from rivals by promising customers one-stop shopping for most, if not all, of their computing and networking needs.

Battling for each other’s turf

Corporate software maker Oracle (ORCL), under pressure from competitors that rent software and deliver it over the Internet rather than installing it on-site, is pushing into computer hardware with its planned $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems (JAVA). When the deal closes (it still faces regulatory hurdles), Oracle will find itself battling partners IBM (IBM), Dell (DELL), and HP (HPQ), all of which also sell servers.

HP, whose legacy personal computer and printer businesses aren’t growing the way they used to, spent $13.9 billion in 2008 to acquire EDS, a specialist in managing and integrating corporate systems. That happens to be IBM’s biggest business. HP also has announced plans to buy 3Com (COMS), a maker of networking gear. (Take that, Cisco!)

Cisco (CSCO), in turn, has announced its own plans to enter the server market. (Take that, HP!) Dell is picking up Perot Systems for $4 billion to take on HP and IBM in services. IBM, meanwhile, has been quietly bulking up in software, hardware, and services: In the past six years it has spent $20 billion on 90 companies.

“It’s the industrialization of IT,” says Pacific Crest Research’s Brent Bracelin. “In the new world that will come about in the next three to five years, you’ll buy the entire stack. Will you buy it from IBM, from Cisco? From HP? That’s what the battle is all about.”

Fighting to dominate a new world order

Tech mergers in the name of world domination aren’t new. (Remember Compaq’s purchase of DEC, or HP’s acquisition of Compaq?) But this wave is also being driven by a coming change in technology. “We’re at an inflection point,” says Forrester Research analyst Andrew Bartels.

He describes a new generation of technology — call it smart computing — in which servers, computers, and networks come together to form a platform on which new applications are built. These new applications aren’t installed on machines in the workplace; instead they live in data centers and are delivered to users’ phones, laptops, and other devices via the Internet.”

Read the full article here.

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Here is an interresting read from BusinessWeek.

For the mergers-and-acquisitions market, there is no doubt 2009 is ending better than it began. The year is winding up with a “sigh of relief,” says Morton Pierce, chairman of the M&A practice at law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf.

In the past month the M&A market has built up some momentum. According to Bloomberg, deals in North America were valued at $115.6 billion in November, the most since September 2008. Compare that with late 2008 and early 2009, when dealmaking either wasn’t happening at all or was centered in areas where deals absolutely needed to happen, such as failing financial institutions that needed buyers at any price. Deal volume in November was five times February’s volume of $22.5 billion.

Investors looking ahead to 2010 are wondering if this uptick in M&A can continue and where it will occur. Acquirers almost always buy at a premium, so traders can profit from correctly betting which industries will attract the most bidding activity.

Small Tech Deals

In 2009, Internet stocks, the investment and financial services industries, software, and oil and gas production were among the most active, according to Bloomberg data. Expect more dealmaking among technology stocks, say M&A experts. Oracle Corp. (ORCL) is battling European regulators to finish its $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems (JAVA).

Such acquisitions, and especially much smaller deals, are a way of life for tech firms, says Daniel Mitz, a partner at law firm Jones Day who specializes in tech deals. “A lot of the innovation comes from smaller companies,” Mitz says. Dealmaking in tech slowed but didn’t stop during the downturn. There could be significant pent-up demand, Mitz says. “This is an industry that is ripe for M&A.”

One driver of a rebound for M&A in tech will be the strong financial positions of many tech firms, says Nadia Damouni, editor of dealReporter Americas, which tracks the M&A market. Another “cash rich” sector is health care, she says, but here the prospects for an M&A rebound are harder to read. The reason: Uncertainty surrounding the federal overhaul of the U.S.health-care system proposed by President Barack Obama and under discussion in Congress. “They’re at the whim of health-care reform,” Damouni says of the many insurers and health-care services companies that could be M&A targets at some point.

In health care, the key ingredient for dealmaking is “stability,” says Bob Filek, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers Transaction Services. If health-care reform passes—or even if it doesn’t—acquirers will want some certainty about what federal policy will mean for health care before making bids. Filek envisions “a couple of scenarios where [the result could be] a lot of M&A activity.”

Read the full article here.

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