Ina Fried

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Is Google’s Motorola Deal the Break That Windows Phone Needed?

Microsoft has got to be of two minds when it comes to digesting the Monday morning shocker that Google is seeking to buy Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion.

On one hand, the deal could give Google even more power and threaten the royalty stream Microsoft has been seeking to collect on Android-based devices. However, it could also give handset makers and carriers — already leery of Google’s control — a reason to give Windows Phone some added attention.

“There’s no doubt they are going to have to give Windows Phone more serious consideration than they ever would before,” Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg told AllThingsD. “On the other hand, they are still smarting from the Nokia deal. But at least Microsoft hasn’t taken that final step of going into the hardware business themselves.”

Of course, Microsoft isn’t the only alternative to Android. Hewlett-Packard has said it is open to licensing its webOS software, and there is also the MeeGo mobile Linux option backed by Intel.

Nor does it matter how much the hardware makers and carriers want an alternative to Android and Apple, if consumers aren’t biting. Thus far, Apple and Android have been dominating the smartphone market, at the expense of almost everyone else.

As for Microsoft’s effort to build a patent-licensing business around Android, a more patent-rich Google could certainly slow that push.

Microsoft has said it believes Android infringes on its patents, and has been seeking deals with device makers and suing some of those unwilling to negotiate. It already has deals with HTC and several smaller device makers. It has sued a number of others, including Motorola and Barnes & Noble.

For now, Microsoft appears to be still digesting the news. What will be most interesting to see is if it formally opposes the deal, quietly agitates against it, or is content to let Google move forward.

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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

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