Alphabet is preparing to double down on its Google-branded hardware offerings with the launch of the Pixel 2 line of smartphones Wednesday. The timing could hardly be more auspicious, as it follows the September 21 announcement that the company will pick up part of longtime strategic partner HTC in a $1.1 billion acqui-hire, a move that involves roughly 2,000 HTC employees, including many engineers behind the first Pixel.
In addition, the deal gives Google a non-exclusive license for HTC intellectual property, putting the search giant on firmer footing to do battle with Apple just as the latest iteration of the iPhone hits the market with mixed results.
But it's not always been a battle Google has been capable of fighting. Indeed, the company's ability to box its own, albeit modest, corner of the smartphone market is a bit unexpected. And it's thanks in no small measure to the company's prolific dealmaking, which has been dominated by activity in the mobile space over the last decade.
Google's M&A activity since 2007 by industry vertical
Google has been a major acquirer of emerging tech over the years, even completing a few one-off deals in sectors like audiotech and edtech not broken out above. Since 2007, Google has completed 200 M&A deals, per the PitchBook Platform.
Far and away its single largest transaction was the 2012 acquisition of Motorola for roughly $13 billion—a flop of a deal by most measures: About two years later, Google sold the mobile phone maker to Chinese laptop manufacturer Lenovo for some $3 billion but retained the patents. It's a cautionary tale, one that Google appears to have learned by partnering with HTC rather than purchasing the Taiwanese device maker outright.
Google's biggest acquisitions since 2007
A year on from the launch of its first line of Pixels last October, Google's second iteration of the device is rumored to have all sorts of new features, with the enigmatic landing page for the Pixel 2 begging the question: "Thinking about changing phones?"
With Google's Android operating system already running on roughly 85% of the smartphones sold since 2009, why wouldn't Alphabet also angle for a greater share of the market for those devices?