Google: Android Will Remain Free Despite Motorola Deal

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Chairman Eric Schmidt said Tuesday that his company remains committed to offering its Android operating system for free to its smartphone-manufacturing partners, assuring the public that Google’s pending purchase of Motorola Mobility Holdings won’t impact Android’s availability.

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When Google announced plans in August to buy Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, it raised anxiety among smartphone makers that have seen profits soar on products built for the Android mobile operating system. Only Android phones have been able to pose serious competition to Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhones.

Samsung, the largest maker of Android-based products, dethroned Apple in the third quarter to become the world’s largest seller of smartphones. Since Google announced plans to purchase Motorola Mobility, Samsung has been taking steps to broaden its product offerings based on other software platforms, announcing a deal in late September to develop smartphones and tablets based on Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows software. The company also hopes to open up Bada, its own mobile software platform, to external developers and smartphone manufacturers next year.

Now is not the time for Android to make itself more exclusive, as Apple is doing the opposite, expanding into the lower-end market once dominated by Research in Motion’s (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry smartphones, and now by Android. Apple is now offering its two-year-old iPhone 3GS model for free to consumers signing contracts with AT&T (NYSE:T). While the phone might not fare well in comparison to the new iPhone 4S, it’s a good alternative when compared to many of its lower-end competitors, most of which use Android.

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At a news conference in South Korea, Schmidt praised the nation’s broadband infrastructure and announced plans to tap the expertise of the nation’s software developers by creating a new program for developers aimed at the local market, smartly choosing to expand Android’s reach rather than limit it. Google is also expected to expand the reach of Android into televisions, according to B.K. Yoon, chief of Samsung’s television unit. Google rolled out Internet-enabled TVs in partnership with Sony (NYSE:SNE) last year, though the products weren’t very well-received.

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