Implications of Google’s Acquisition of WideVine

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What does the acquisition of WideVine mean to Google?

Around a decade or so ago, one of my co-workers asked for help with an ebook. The book was purchased to use at home, but couldn’t be transferred over to a computer at work to read during lunch breaks. Being able to easily transfer the book over to a work computer would have been great, but we recognized that the seller provided limited access to books to try to protect their copyrights. It would have been great if the book was portable, and could be used at different locations on different computers.

When Google acquired WideVine a few days ago, the focus of most commentary on the purchase involved what it might mean to Google involving video content.

Here are a few of those topics:

  • Copyright protection and better streaming video for YouTube
  • Digital Rights Management (and industry respectability) for Google TV
  • Access to major content creators and distributors
  • Optimization and portability of video content on very wide range of devices

One of the most thoughtful analysis about the acquisition that I’ve seen is Connected Vision’s article Google buys Widevine to secure programming deals, which notes the things I’ve listed above as well as hinting that the acquisition has implications beyond video, possibly even including “a robust encryption scheme for general use in online media.”

After learning about the purchase, I checked into the patent filings behind WideVine, and I found myself surprised at how much I found.

I also visited the WideVine website, and I ran across this quote on their page about their intellectual property:

Comprised of over 60 issued U.S. and international patents, with approximately 2000 claims, Widevine’s portfolio offers consumer device manufacturers, service operators and content owners the ability to operate freely in a patent laden world of video optimization and content protection. Widevine also has over 100 other patents pending worldwide.

Following are the pending and granted patents assigned to WideVine that I found at the USPTO. There are some interesting patents amongst the bunch.

Patent applications

Granted Patents

With the acquisition of WideVine, Google has gone from being one of the largest providers of content on the Web (with YouTube), to being one of the leaders of Video technology online.

And, amongst the patents above does seem to be technology for protecting and securely delivering other kinds of online media as well, such as music and electronic books.

Added December 7, 2010 – Google launched their ebook store yesterday, which I hadn’t realized when I wrote this post. It’s interesting that when you buy a book through Google, it’s stored on the cloud, and you can access it when you want, from a very wide variety of devices. Is WideVine technology already at work here? The Official Google Blog post is at: Discover more than 3 million Google eBooks from your choice of booksellers and devices.

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32 thoughts on “Implications of Google’s Acquisition of WideVine”

  1. Google is eating its competitors for the content based services on internet. They are becoming next king in Media industry after Search

  2. Google is buying up websites and technology companies left and right and it doesn’t look like they are going to stop anytime soon. I was surprised they weren’t able to close the Groupon deal.

  3. Hi Gavin,

    It does look like Google is working towards becoming more involved in the distribution of digital content on the Web, with services like their new Google eBook service, Google TV, and their acquisitions of technology that help for the infrastructure of that distribution, like WideVine.

  4. Hi Jason,

    I was a little surprised that Groupon decided to turn down Google’s offer, but I’m not sure how much that’s going to really harm Google. Google’s rate of acquisitions over the past year is head turning, and I’m not sure that they will slow down anytime soon. The real challenge may be to use all the new parts and pieces in as effective manner as possible.

  5. A must read… great work. I really appreciate your work and your information on everything is so amazing…

  6. I always get a little excited when Google eats another company.
    The results are usually some amazingly successful products or a spectacular failure.
    I can barely wait to find out what this one will be.

    If anyone can make DRM respectable it’s Google but I sincerely doubt it. DRM hasn’t been popular with consumers.

  7. Google is definitely making some big moves and to me it seems like they are making a new acquisition or making a big change everyday. They are definitely determined to go beyond just being known as a search site. I

    I am definitely interested to see the next move Google makes and as always I’m sure you’ll be on top of it and bring us the latest news. Thanks for sharing.

  8. It certainly does look like Google is preparing to be the go to resource for streaming media. I wonder if they really are going to launch their own version of the Ipad in the Google Tablet using the Chrome OS to try and migrate their current users to using their device for reading & surfing the Internet.

  9. Google is certainly on a path to dominate a variety of media – books, TV, online vids, etc etc. It will be interesting what they sink their teeth into next.

  10. Hi Bill;

    May I ask why the confidence in WideVine’s monopoly or higher levels of innovation against the field in their competitive realm? Those are merely patents filed; not granted, right?


  11. I think this is another one of those expansion projects that Google may have. This acquisition would actually help them lead especially in video technology which is widely used right now.

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  13. Whenever i see a product done by Google, mostly they are not done(design) with security in mind
    For eg G mail, Google docs. these applications spilled all the secured user data to public or someone else easily.

    I may use Google applications (other than search )for fun but not as a product i have to be relied on.

  14. Thank you, Usman

    I think one of the primary impacts of this acquisition will be to make content providers a little more likely to work with Google, knowing that Google is making strong efforts to protect digital content rights.

  15. Hi Ray,

    Digital Rights Management has been something that major companies demand, and consumers tend to find too restrictive. For instance, my story about my co-worker who wanted to read ebooks on a different computer during lunchtime – the technology to protect the copyrights of those books made using the content too restrictive. Hopefully there’s a way to find a balance that both respects copyright, and makes it easier for us to use the digital content that we purchase the way that we want to.

  16. Hi John,

    It does seem like Google has been on overdrive in terms of acquisitions of both companies, and as I’ve been writing about lately, technology via approaches like licensing patents. Thanks.

  17. Hi Kyle,

    I hadn’t looked at the Chrome store yet. Some interesting looking stuff in there. Didn’t expect to see “free” stuff with the name “store” in the site’s title.

  18. Hi Matthew,

    The last 16 that I listed are granted patents, and the use of Widevine’s technology has already been adopted by a wide variety of companies.

    According the WideVine Featured Customers page (no longer available), these are some of the companies that are using one or more of the services or products that WideVine provides:

    Best Buy
    Deutsche Telekom
    DISH Network
    Sonic Solutions
    EchoStar Technologies
    LG Electronics

  19. Hi Andrew,

    I agree with you. My major concern at this point is if Google might be expanding in too many directions at the same time.

    It’s possible that there’s a synergy behind many of the different directions that they are taking – for instance, improving the quality and delivery of online video makes something like YouTube stronger, opens up possibilities for Google TV, makes video on android powered devices a better user experience. Providing better encryption, and the deployment of digital content on the Web makes it more likely that people will make purchases of music and ebooks and videos from Google, and that content providers are more likely to work with Google.

  20. Hi John,

    I think the impression of the security behind Google products is one that is shared by a number of people. It makes sense from that perspective that Google would acquire a company like WideVine that has some technical experience in that area.

  21. Hi Bill,

    I’ve seen reference to the CR-48. But I’ve also seen articles referring to Google teaming up with Verizon to create a tablet based on Chrome. Chromium dot org has a pic of the prototype. I’ve also seen articles referring to a new product called the View Pad 7 by ViewSonic that uses Android (does not seem to be related to Google).

    Interesting stuff :)

    Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

  22. Hi Leah,

    There does seem to be a stream of new devices coming out that are Android/Chrome based. They are very interesting.

    Thank you for the holiday wishes. I hope you have a great new year.

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  24. Hey Bill,

    Just wondering if this acquisition has anything to do with the recent addition of video to google documents? Today is the first day i’ve noticed that you can now share and watch videos with google docs (i use google docs every day so i’m assuming its new). I didn’t read through all of the patents but i was interested to read a bit more specifically on the google doc situation. Thanks in advance.


  25. Hi AJ,

    Interesting. I had’nt noticed that Google Docs had integrated videos, but it’s possible that the security approaches involved with this acquistion may have played a role in adding videos to Google Docs. I’m not sure how large of a role since Google is trying to expand in a number of areas simultaneously involving video, including Google TV.

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