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Google: Motorola buy won't put us into hardware business

Android chief Andy Rubin says that Google's Motorola Mobility acquisition will not affect its plans to stay out of the handset-development business.

When Google announced plans in August to acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, some assumed the company would start actively involving itself in handset development.

But in an interview today at All Things Digital's AsiaD conference, Google Android boss Andy Rubin said that this simply won't happen.

"I don't think you should consider Google's acquisition of Motorola as Google entering the hardware business," Rubin said during the interview. "This is going to be an arm's length thing...Motorola isn't going to get any special treatment."

Rubin's comments seem to follow what Google has been saying since the Motorola Mobility acquisition was announced two months ago. Google has consistently said that it's not getting into the hardware business and has gone so far as to try to convince other Android handset vendors of that. In fact, just following the news of Google's acquisition plans, HTC CEO Peter Chou said publicly that he was happy to see the search giant acquire Motorola Mobility.

"We welcome the news of today's acquisition, which demonstrates that Google is deeply committed to defending Android, its partners, and the entire ecosystem," Chou said back in August. His comments echoed those made by other Android vendors, including Samsung and LG.

Google's decision to acquire Motorola Mobility has everything to do with patent protection, Rubin said today. "There are other folks focused on putting me out of business," he said, noting that Motorola's patent portfolio should be able to safeguard the search company and Android from such threats.

Currently, Google is embroiled in a bitter Android-related patent dispute with Oracle over the use of Java in the mobile operating system. Android vendors, including Samsung, Barnes & Noble, and even Motorola Mobility, are involved in lawsuits against a host of companies, including Apple and Microsoft.

The reason Google and its operating system are the subject of so many lawsuits is actually quite simple: the company's mobile portfolio is not all that thick, which makes it an easy target for competitors. Motorola Mobility, however, has a portfolio of over 17,000 approved patents and 7,500 more that are pending approval, which would help level the playing field.

But even with Rubin's assurances and with evidence that seems to back up his claims, there are some who aren't so sure Google can keep Motorola Mobility at arm's length. Speaking to CNET in August, Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg said that looking ahead, Motorola Mobility will be the search giant's favorite, no matter what its executives say.

"Any way (Google) tries to couch this, there's no doubt Motorola is the most favored player," Gartenberg said. "If I'm a third-party vendor, I have some real concerns here."

But before anything can happen, Google must first overcome the regulatory hurdles required to seal the deal. If all goes well, the companies expect to close the deal by the end of this year or in early 2012.