China’s Lenovo Group Ltd. is buying Motorola Mobility from Google Inc. for $2.91 billion. That’s nearly $9.6 billion less than the $12.5 billion Google paid for the unit at the end of 2012.
On the surface, this might sound like a Silicon Valley mega-deal gone terribly wrong. But it might also be a monster win for both Google and Lenovo and bad news for smartphone rivals Apple and Samsung Electronics Ltd.
Google bought Motorola Mobility to, in its own words, “supercharge the Android ecosystem.” In less than two years, Google has rummaged through Motorola’s patent library, putting to work anything that could give a competitive edge to the open Android operating system while, in turn, eating into the Apple iPhone’s share of the global smartphone market.
It worked. But Google could only go so far down that road because of the underlying conflict it posed for its Android-based smartphone customers, who became competitors the minute Google bought Motorola. At the same time, it means Google, having recently signed a licensing agreement with Samsung, can help push Samsung’s Android-based phones right to the top of the market.