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September 23, 2017

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Google's Motorola buy may reshape Asian phone makers

Phone makers and software firms are involved in copycat lawsuits in the fierce battle over who owns patents used in mobile devices, with Apple going after Android device makers.

"We suspect that Google will now try to provide an umbrella for the Android community that provides IP protection from key rivals such as Apple and Microsoft. This is broadly how Microsoft protects Windows Phone," Nomura said in a note.

"We do not believe that Google will aim to continue to make handsets long term, but will rather look to spin the business out to an Android partner — such as Huawei, LG, ZTE, for example."

Globally, HTC has been a standout winner after being the first to roll out an Android-backed smart phone, leaving it most exposed to any shift in the landscape, analysts said.

Nearly all of its smart phones run on Android but it also has a long-standing partnership with Microsoft.

"HTC and Samsung are companies Google can trust but not control to drive market share," Chang said. "If in the long run Google decides HTC and Samsung have very different business roadmaps, it may want to leverage on Motorola to gain market share."

HTC said in May it plans to bring out phones based on Microsoft's new Mango Windows phone software. However on Tuesday, HTC said the Google-Motorola deal would not affect its partnership with Google.

"This is a positive development to the Android ecosystem, which we believe is beneficial to HTC's promotion of Android phones," HTC said in a statement. "The partnership between HTC and Google remains strong and will not be affected by this acquisition."

Some of the fast-growing Chinese companies such as Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp are also betting on Android.

Huawei, known for its low-cost cell phones, is looking to replicate its telecom gear success in the smart phone market as it takes on the likes of Nokia, Apple and Samsung.

Samsung became the world's No. 2 smart phone maker in the second quarter with a 19.2 percent market share. HTC is ranked fifth with 12.1 percent, according to Strategy Analytics. Apple is the top smart phone vendor.

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