Sunday, July 3, 2011

Google’s “Pi” In The Face

As we’re all well aware by now, Google did not win the rights to the 6,000+ Nortel wireless and mobile patents. Instead, a consortium featuring many of their main rivals did. That has to sting. But as more details emerge about the auction itself, it sure looks as if Google wasn’t taking the entire thing too seriously. And that’s too bad. Because Android may be royally screwed without those patents.

Specifically, Nadia Damouni of Reuters reports today that following their initial “stalking horse” bid to get the ball rolling, Google put forth bids of $1,902,160,540, $2,614,972,128 — and $3.14159 billion. If those numbers look familiar, it’s because you’re a nerd. Brun’s constant, Meissel-Mertens constant, and yes, Pi. That’s how Google was bidding on perhaps the most important auction they’ve ever been involved in.

It would have been one thing if Google had done this during the Spectrum auction in 2008 — which they never intended to win. They simply wanted to push the bidding high enough to ensure that the government would enforce the open rules on the sold spectrum (which Verizon ended up winning the biggest chunk of). But with the Nortel patents, Google absolutely did want to win. And many within the company expected to.

Sure, in hindsight you could say that Google wasn’t going to win anyway — Reuters also reports that Google was only willing to go as high as $4 billion and the winning bid ended up being $4.5 billion. But again, they did not know that at the time. They thought they were going to win and apparently thought they could have some fun in the process. Meanwhile, according to Reuters’ sources, they found this behavior aloof and off-putting. It certainly did not help Google’s case.

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