Everyone was baffled when Google made those crazy bids for the Nortel patents last month. Remember? They bid things like the distance from the earth to the sun, the number pi, and some other wacky numbers from mathematics. Which led ultra Apple fanboy MG Siegler to crow that Google had got “pi in the face” and was “living in a dream world” and “look like huge asses in retrospect.” Then MG went on to drool about how Android was doomed, penning a ridiculous piece that compared Apple to James Bond and Google to Le Chiffre, the evil villain in “Casino Royale.”
And today it all makes sense. Google just sandbagged its rivals. The whole thing was a rope-a-dope maneuver. Google never cared about the Nortel patents. It just wanted to drive up the price so that AppleSoft (those happy new bedmates) would overpay. Today, with the Motorola deal, Google picks up nearly three times as many patents as AppleSoft got from Novell and Nortel. More important, Google just raised the stakes in a huge way for anyone who wants to stay in the smartphone market.
Better yet, Google got its rivals to spend a few weeks defending the practice of using patents to attack other companies. Apple fanboys bent over backward to say that Apple was doing the honorable thing here by suing everyone in sight. All this slimy patent warfare that is so despicable when others do it becomes magically noble when Apple does it. Teaming up with other companies, including the evil Borg, to gang up on Google is all perfectly legitimate, par for the course, smart business practice, blah blah.
So now Google fires back, makes a huge acquisition, gets into the hardware business, buys up the best IP portfolio in the mobile space — and can position itself as a victim that’s just trying to defend itself against this gang of bullies. The Nortel auction just helps Google get approval for the Motorola purchase. Does anyone really believe this $12.5 billion acquisition just got thrown together in the last few weeks as a response to the AppleSoft patent grabs? Doesn’t it seem likely that Google and Motorola started talking long before the Nortel auction?
As for those crazy bids in the Nortel auction — that was just a way to leave a little “fuck you” in the paperwork for Google’s pals in Redmond and Cupertino to look back upon. That move is pure Larry Page. This is a smart, hyper-competitive guy with a mean streak and a nasty sense of humor. Kara Swisher recently compared him to Bill Gates, and now I see why. Page is turning out to be a better CEO, and more fun to cover, than anyone could have imagined.