So Google has just bought Mobile handset maker Motorolo Mobility (see announcement on the Google blog), a move that sees Google vertically integrating into phone hardware.
My initial reaction to this was a worry that by vertically integrating to compete against Apple, this might discourage non-integrated phone makers (such as Sony, Samsung and HTC) from using Android. The argument being that by virtue of the vertical integration, Motorola would have an advantage over other phone manufacturers who use Android (e.g. closer hardware/software integration ala the Apple model).
However, signs point to this being a patent play in response to RIM, Microsoft et al buying up the Nortell patents (which Google has complained to the Antitrust authorities about). The worry being that threats of legal action or patent fees will make Android costly to install on phones. By acquiring Motorolo’s IP this gives Google something to fight back with (i.e. the ability to threaten to counter-sue).
So hopefully Motoroloa continues to be run as a separate company competing against Sony/Samsung/HTC etc., while Google’s control of Motorola’s patents gives these companies some more legal certainty.
UPDATE: A neat info-graphic which shows “who is suing who” in the smartphone wars (HT: @d7street and the NBR article already linked)