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Mobile operating systems: Where the manufacturers play

With its Motorola Mobility acquisition, Google would take on a new role of developing an open-sourced smartphone OS and making hardware for it.

If you were a bit shocked by Monday's news that Google was shelling out a cool $12.5 billion for Motorola Mobility, we don't blame you in the least. Indeed, the acquisition was unexpected considering Google has spend its life building anything other than hardware. The changes for consumers, Android's Nexus line, the supply of mobile patents, and the smartphone market as a whole will be momentous. What's more, it effectively means the end of a somewhat struggling company that not only was an early supporter of Android, but also did much to build the cell phone as we know it.

As the below chart demonstrates, Google is now a different kind of player in the mobile space. First off, the deal also leaves Microsoft as the only major smartphone OS developer not to build its own hardware. Sure, its partnership with Nokia is significant, but Nokia still stands alone as a separate entity (and as of now, we don't lend much credence to speculation that Microsoft might acquire Nokia). Secondly, Google also assumes a unique role of building hardware for its OS while letting other manufacturers use it through open source. How that will affect Google's partnerships and Android's rise will be fascinating to watch (Maggie Reardon and Roger Cheng explored the various issues on Monday).

Related link:
• Full coverage of Google's Motorola acquisition, from CNET and its sister sites

For now, though, we'll have to see how it all plays out if the deal is successful. Google has made a bold move, to be sure, and by acquiring a host of patents it's entering new territory as a company. But, hey, that's never stopped it before.





Windows Phone 7

Research in Motion
First Palm, now HP
Does the developer make hardware?
Not before the Moto acquisition
Um, yes
No (though it has a partnership with Nokia)
Is it open sourced or licensed?
Not yet, but maybe in the future
If yes, which manufactures use it?
Lots including Samsung, HTC, Kyocera, Sony Ericsson, LG, and, of course, Motorola
Possibly Samsung
Samsung, LG, Dell, and HTC and a few others for now. Nokia to follow later this year.
Latest U.S. devices
HTC Wildfire S, Samsung Conquer 4G, Motorola Photon 4G (to name just a few)
Like we need to tell you
BlackBerry 9930, 9850, and 9810
HP Veer and Palm Pre 2
HTC Arrive, Dell Venue Pro, and LG Quantum
What we're waiting for
iPhone 5 anyone?
More OS 7 devices
The elusive Pre 3
The Mango update and Nokia to finally make its move