Motorola Mobility’s Megan Nicholas on Googarola and the future of BlackBerry

At the recent South African launch event for the Motorola XOOM tablet and ATRIX smartphone, the lush gadgetry on offer was actually the last thing on my mind. Just two days prior to the event, Google had announced that it had entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Motorola Mobility for a hefty premium.

In the middle of this electric atmosphere, I had a few minutes to sit down with Megan Nicholas, the country director for Mobility South Africa.

I wanted to know what her thoughts were on the acquisition:

“I’m very excited, the Google and Motorola partnership has been strong from the beginning with Android. Motorola has been one of the front runners with Android. It makes us better and stronger.”

Soon after the acquisition news broke, speculation as to what triggered it ran rife. Was this a defensive move by Google to protect Android from Oracle, Microsoft and Apple’s escalating patent litigation? Was Google reacting to losing out on the Nortel patent bid? Was Google trying to protect its OEMs from Motorola’s threats to wage patent warfare against other Android handset makers?

Whatever the motivation, Google would be in a better position to defend Android with Motorola’s venerable patent portfolio in its arsenal.

Dan Lyons believes the acquisition had been a long time coming and that the Nortel bid was simply an attempt to drive up the price so Google’s competitors would overpay. John Gruber disagrees and believes the deal was struck as a knee-jerk reaction shortly after the failed bid, and came together in less than 5 weeks.

I wanted to know if Nicholas thought Google had been in talks with Motorola for a while, or whether she thought it was a desperate attempt do defend Android.

“We are listed companies, so it’s got to be kept under wraps until the last minute. You know corporates, they don’t put this deal together over the weekend. I don’t think it’s a knee-jerk reaction, it’s been a long time discussion.”

In the days before the acquisition it almost seemed as if Motorola was forcing Google into an acquisition by the way that it publicly spoke about waging a patent war against other Android manufacturers, and how it was considering Windows Phone 7 for Motorola smartphones. Following a gloomy last quarter and an underwhelming forecast for the current, it seemed like Motorola’s woes might have been mitigated by the acquisition and I wondered if Google and Motorola Mobility would continue to operate as separate entities.

“Both Google and Motorola have stated that both companies will continue to run as separate entities, completely, worldwide. Where Google’s got presence, Motorola has a presence. We’re in 89 countries.”

Nicholas had some interesting thoughts about Android, Sanjay Jha’s Windows Phone 7 comments prior to the acquisition, and the future of BlackBerry in South Africa.

“Before the acquisition talks commenced, no commitment was officially made to other operating systems. Android is working well for us and Android exclusivity is confirmed for this year. It’s dominating the world, and it will dominate South Africa as well. BlackBerry will lose its market share.”

Finally, I couldn’t find a person at the event not running a Gingerbread build on their Motorola ATRIX. Curious since the device launches with Froyo. I asked Nicholas about it, and it revealed some interesting insight into how Motorola Mobility tests builds for the local market, and the availability of Gingerbread for the ATRIX.

“I’m using Gingerbread on mine. We’re all testing. I’m using the AT&T build, but we’re all using different builds for testing purposes. I was given the AT&T build because it’s probably the most stable. We all help test the phones, it’s part of our lives, if it drops calls, we report it to the software engineers. Builds are tested for a minimum of 8 weeks. Gingerbread will be available for the Atrix locally, close to launch in a few weeks.”



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