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Google buys IBM patents to defend Java use, updates Gmail for Android

by Kristen Nicole

Google is facing at least six lawsuits regarding its use of Java source code behind its Android OS, and while it faces Oracle in court, the search engine behemoth is bulking up its patent portfolio. So when a batch of patents from IBM became available, Google snapped them up. The deal came weeks after Google lost out on the Nortel patents, as its rivals came together to outbid Google’s efforts to add more patents to their books. It has been an uphill battle for Google, as recently uncovered emails implicate the search engine giant as knowingly taking a risk in utilizing Java code without a licensing deal.

Battles on the OS & device fronts

But even as Google seeks shelter from the barrage of infringement suits, the mobile operating system industry is facing more competitors. This week alone saw developments from three major players, two of which are brand new to the mobile OS game. Microsoft’s newest Windows Phone Mango brings their mobile OS up to speed, matching many of the features found on Android and iOS. Mozilla is looking to further open mobile OS standards with plans to build its own platform, while international competition comes from Alibaba, which launched a cloud-based mobile OS called AliCloud.

And while the platform sector begins to really heat up, manufacturers face their own battles, especially in the tablet market. Samsung is rightly boastful of its smartphone and tablet sales worldwide, a feat validated by the latest Nielsen report. But their success has come at the expense of Motorola, which has seen a decline in Xoom tablet sales and earnings estimates. Competition is getting serious on a global scale, as Dell is reportedly expanding its Android tablet lineup to include a 10-inch device, to be first released in China. Acer is also gearing up for an Android tablet launch, setting an August release date for the Iconia Tab A100.

Gmail mobile closer to web experience

So things are looking up for Android overall, with steady support from manufacturers and consumers. Google continues to improve its own native apps for its mobile OS, with some major updates to Gmail. Version 2.3.5 has a few practical improvements that bring it closer to the web experience, including the option to remember “show pictures” for individual senders, and the option to download attachments, whereas only preview options were available before. Gmail for Android will also save bandwidth and battery by only syncing priority mail, and you can now use label notifications to mash up filters, labels and ringtones.