Google’s buying Motorola, will Microsoft respond by buying Nokia?

It might as well, former Microsoft executive Stephen Elop’s rescue plan for Nokia (still the world’s biggest mobile maker) depends entirely on Microsoft’s Windows 7 phone technology to power a new but belated generation of smartphones.

Google’s $12.5bn agreed deal to buy Motorola is being depicted as, primarily, a big move in the patents war. All the mobile companies are scrapping hard with each other to say we invented that first, most recently Apple’s court victory in the EU over Samsung and its latest tablet rival (powered by Google’s Android system) to Apple’s iPad. Motorola is reckoned to have some 17,000 outstanding patents.

But really the move is another vindication of Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs’ belief that vertical integration is the way to go in the technology market. Jobs is a bit of a Marxist (although he probably doesn’t realise it), he believes in controlling the means of production, distribution and exchange.

Apple is now more profitable than any of its rivals (it’s now also the biggest company in the world by market cap) because it makes everything from the software to the hardware and, increasingly, sells its own products through its own Apple stores or via its website.

For years Microsoft ruled the technology roost because it only made software and leased it out to all the world’s PC manufacturers. But even Microsoft is now trying to make its own mobile handsets although it isn’t doing particularly well at it.

Buying Nokia, which is good at making the things but not so hot at smartphone software, would be sensible and easily affordable. Cheaper probably than Microsoft’s daft bid for Yahoo last year (a narrow escape).

Nokia could hardly say no, could it?

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.