NUTS: Google Buys Motorola, HP Dumps WebOS

Google buys Motorola for $12.5 billion, creating a big splash in the mobile industry, as Hewlett-Packard throws its mobile business overboard and social networks see dark scandals brewing.

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Google Buys Motorola

Google announced it would buy Motorola for $12.5 billion. The move gives the software company a presence in the hardware end of the smartphone business, allowing it to customise handsets running Android.

Although board members of both companies approved the deal, it is sparking antitrust concerns. The deal may draw regulatory scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission, even as the FTC continues to investigate whether Google constitutes an industry monopoly.

Google also promised to pay Motorola $2.5 billion if the FTC stops the deal, suggesting the search giant will flex its muscles to get the deal closed.

Android phone makers like such as HTC, LG and Samsung welcomed the deal, saying they’ll benefit from the thousands of patents Google will acquire, which the search giant will use to protect Android handset makers against patent infringement lawsuits.

However, Google’s may also compete against these phone makers who could see Google as a rival. In addition, there’s no guarantee Google would use Motorola’s patents to protect others from Apple’s or Nokia’s lawsuits, for example.

In fact, Nokia remarked it was glad to be using Microsoft’s OS rather than Android, since it alleges the deal means trouble for Samsung and HTC, among others.

While Android makers verbally backed the deal, U.S. carriers haven’t voiced their opinions. Verizon, AT&T and Sprint may be concerned Google’s purchase will prevent them from tweaking the Android and possibly slow down phone sales.

Critics of the deal also warned Google and Motorola may be a bad pairing. Analysts alleged Motorola may have a tough time adjusting to Google’s West Coast style of business, saying differences in the companies’ cultures may lead to clashes.

But Google’s head of Android Andy Rubin thinks such proceedings are unwarranted. Rubin was responsible for Google’s acquisition of Android and plans to personally oversee several elements of the Google-Motorola deal.

Google Tries to Protect Apps

Mobile security expert Riley Hassell, founder of Privateer Labs, said he and a colleague identified more than a dozen popular apps that make the Android handsets and tablets prime targets for hackers.

Though developers may not be securing their apps well enough, Google is still going out of its way to protect them. Google wants federal officials to review Lodsys’ case against Android developers, saying Lodsys should never have owned the in-app purchase patents in question.

HP Shuts Down WebOS

Hewlett-Packard ditched its much-advertised WebOS platform, scrapping the TouchPad tablet in favour of focusing on the business market. The company plans to buy Autonomy and restructure its tablet and smartphone business.

HP is also talking with several companies interested in licensing WebOS for use in household appliances like stoves and washing machines and even cars. The company was hoping to create an ecosystem of WebOS-based products to spur the growth of its flailing platform.

Apple: Legal Issues

It all began when a Dutch website Webwereld claimed Apple doctored a side-by-side photo of the iPad and Galaxy Tab, allegedly misrepresenting evidence pertaining to its lawsuit against Samsung.

After hearing this news, the Dusseldorf district court reversed its decision to ban the Galaxy Tab throughout Europe. The ruling may affect Apple’s patent battles with Samsung, HTC and Motorola, as it calls into question Apple’s claim that Android manufacturers copy the “look and feel” of iOS devices.

Apple then escalated its battle against Samsung by hurling another patent suit at its Korean rival. The Cupertino company requests a European injunction on all Samsung smartphones and tablets, besides requesting any non-compliant stores share the blame for alleged patent infringement.

While Apple’s case with Samsung continues to twist and turn, HTC is also complicating the Cupertino company’s life. The Taiwanese phone maker is suing Apple for patent infringement once again, seeking a U.S. ban on iOS computers and mobile devices.

In South Korea, 27,000 citizens sued Apple over allegedly violating their privacy by tracking smartphone and tablet locations.

Apple: IPhone Reports

Apple is trying not to let legal troubles slow it down in the market. In this spirit, CEO Steve Jobs met with China Mobile to discuss a possible iPhone 4 deal with the wireless giant, which could mean 3G connectivity for over eight million Chinese iPhone users.

The company is also reportedly set to invest more than $1 billion in Sharp to ensure a steady supply of screens for its upcoming iPhones and iPads. Apple’s courtship of Sharp may mean the company is slowly breaking off its relationship with erstwhile supplier and current legal rival Samsung.

But Samsung recently polished up its displays and this fall plans to unveil Super AMOLED Plus screens. They are set to be bigger and brighter than ever before, meaning Apple may have picked the wrong time to strain relations with the Korean company.

Apple’s major wireless carriers, Verizon and AT&T, are reportedly testing an LTE-capable iPhone. The testing doesn’t necessarily mean the iPhone 5 will be 4G-capable, but it suggests Apple may ramp up speeds on the iPhone 6, set for release sometime next year.

And with Verizon’s 4G network soon set to cover 160 million people, or roughly half the U.S., Apple would do well to let its iPhone take advantage of the carrier’s offerings.

Hackers Keep Hacking

Hacker group Anonymous hit San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit. The hackers released user data and defaced BART websites, threatening to inundate transit offices with faxes and emails. Masked Anonymous protestors also crowded BART stations Monday, forcing several platforms to close.

Unidentified hackers then broke into BART’s Police Officer Association website, publishing names, addresses and passwords of transit police. Anonymous hacktivists denied responsibility, attributing the cyber-attacks to “some random joe.”

The Federal Communications Commission is now gathering information about the hack and about BART’s last Thursday decision to axe its mobile network. BART officials could face legal action if the FCC determines, as Anonymous suggests, they did not adequately investigate the legality of silencing train station airwaves before cutting off access to prevent a protest.

Patent Sales to Pick Up

Analysts say Google’s deal to acquire Motorola may benefit Research in Motion. After Google snaps up Motorola’s patents, RIM may look even more attractive to Google’s competitors, who may offer RIM more money for its assets now than one week ago.

InterDigital delayed its patent sale to the beginning of September to heighten anticipation. The company’s patent portfolio is in high-demand among tech companies like Google and Apple who want to protect themselves from intellectual copyright lawsuits.

Kodak too got the memo about patent demand and plans to sell 10 per cent of its portfolio, probably to tablet makers. In addition, one patent may go for $1 billion since it is at the heart of Kodak’s lawsuits against Apple and RIM.

Research in Motion to Introduce New Services

Along with seeing its patents’ value rise, RIM is also soaring into the cloud. The company announced it will debut a free cloud-based system to attract small businesses called BlackBerry Management centre. It will allow employers who use ISP or Web-based email services to back up their data and wipe their device remotely if needed.

RIM is also set to debut a music streaming service after talking with Universal, Sony, Warner and EMI. If it does so, the company will have plenty of competition from Apple, Google and Amazon.

Cloud services may attract customers to RIM, but the company’s BlackBerry 9900 just lost one of its main selling points. AT&T will reportedly block the device’s NFC hardware capabilities. AT&T disagrees with RIM over where to store customers’ payment information: RIM wants the information kept on its devices, while AT&T wants it on SIM cards.

In more bad news, carriers are pricing RIM’s new BlackBerry Bold at $250 to $300, which may deter customers from purchasing the device. Rather than picking up the Bold, many may choose to wait for RIM’s new QNX line of smartphones set for later this year.

AT&T Fights for T-Mobile Merger

AT&T went on the offensive, suing law firm Bursor & Fisher for trying to stop the carrier’s pending T-Mobile merger. The firm had filed an arbitration request alleging the merger violates the Clayton Antitrust Act and created a website encouraging customers to sue AT&T.

As AT&T continues to fight for the merger, the FCC signaled an intent to increase its regulation of the telecommunications industry. The government could force AT&T and Verizon to keep prices from rising or even force AT&T to sell some of its acquired spectrum to rival Sprint.

Besides fighting for its merger, AT&T switched its texting plans, offering either unlimited messaging for $20 per month or letting customers pay per text. The company hopes thereby to lure customers away from using free apps and social media to send each other instant messages rather than paying for the carrier’s plan.

Microsoft, Nokia Gear Up to Compete

Nokia said it would cut prices on its Windows smartphones next year to compete with low-end Android devices already on the market. By offering devices at various prices, Nokia may give itself and partner Microsoft a better chance of challenging Android phones in emerging markets like Asia and India.

Some of the phones Nokia releases next year may include specialised keyboards. Microsoft gained a new patent for a sliding keyboard that lies flush to a handset’s screen when opened, making it easier and more comfortable to type.

Slider phones may also bode well for Microsoft’s planned expansion of Xbox Live on its Windows Phone platform. The company announced 14 new Xbox Live games and features to let users unlock wearable achievements for their online avatars and buy add-ons like new levels within games.

Aside from its mobile platform, the software giant is also beginning to talk about its next personal computer operating system. The company said its coming Windows 8 will be the biggest software update since Windows 95. Microsoft started a blog to work with developers on applications for the PC software.

Governments Clamp Down on Technology

Worldwide governments are continuing to monitor mobile and Internet networks for threats. In the U.K’s case, London police are using facial recognition software to identify possible perpetrators of the recent riots. Members of Parliament also called for RIM to hand over private chat logs so police can track rioters’ plans.

These controversial moves inspired the UAE to impose similar clampdowns, albeit for different purposes. The Gulf country’s leadership is now monitoring Facebook for any negative comments about the government, the royal family or Islam, promising prison terms for those who disobey.

Verizon Strike Heats Up

Verizon sent letters to striking wireline workers, informing them their healthcare coverage will expire on August 31 if they don’t return to work. The 45,000 East Coast workers may need to pay their own health insurance costs if the Communications Workers of America doesn’t strike a deal with Verizon soon on the picketers’ behalf.

Zynga Drawn Into Legal Games

The social gaming company Zynga took a legal hit from Agincourt Gaming, which alleges Zynga infringed on two patents relating to virtual prizes. Agincourt demanded its rival shut down twelve games supposedly containing the patent, including “FarmVille” and “Mafia Wars.”

Mobile Payments Race

New York may soon launch a “pay by phone” parking meter program. The technology would alert parkers’ cell phones when their meters are about to expire, allowing them to add more minutes right from their cell phones if necessary.

Narian Technologies is also looking to use mobile payments in new ways. The company announced its NFC4All platform, which allows small retailers to create apps that take advantage of NFC technology in smartphones. If the platform is successful, shoppers may soon use NFC services in mum and pop shops as well as in major retail stores.

Facebook, Twitter Scandals

A streak of social media scandals rocked the online world, with one in particular still a mystery. London Eley and Timothy Bynum were already incarcerated for discussing a murder plot on Facebook, when police found the intended victim dead in Philadelphia. Officials remain uncertain if the two crimes are connected.

British police arrested two men for posting messages on Facebook inciting people to riot in London. The men posted an event called “Smash Down,” asking rioters to turn up at a pre-arranged meeting point, but police arrived instead and took them into custody where they will likely remain for some time.

Facebook also played a key role in Iain Wood’s scamming operation. The 33-year-old man stole $57,000 from neighbours by getting to know them on Facebook and guessing personal details to pry open their online bank accounts.

Rapper “The Gamemay face legal action after attempting a Twitter prank. The Game tweeted a phone number for fans to dial regarding a possible internship with him, but the number rang up the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department, which said the prank delayed officers’ response to real emergencies.

Finally, a customer at a Houston restaurant found herself booted from the establishment after tweeting negative remarks about the bartender. Her 86-ing demonstrates the increasingly blurred line between real-life and virtual social mores.

News Under the Sun is a weekly column rounding up all the events on in the mobile industry. Want the news but don’t want it every day? Subscribe to our weekly Facebook or Twitter page.

This post originally appeared at Mobiledia.