On Motorola and Google
There are lots of opinions flying around with the Motorola-Lenovo sale. They vary from "Google Loses" to "Google is a Genius" Just a few:
I’d like to expand the thinking a little. When Google bought Moto in 2011 the Android ecosystem was under attack on several fronts. First the patent wars were at their height with lawsuits filed all over the world. Second, fragmentation was getting out of control with the introduction of Gingerbread, Honeycomb, and Ice Cream Sandwich all within 2011 and the OEM struggling to keep up. The monolith of Samsung was rising and threatened to fork Android and turn it into a bloatware nightmare, close its devices to the community, or drop Android entirely. While Samsung thrived the other OEMs; HTC, Motorola, Sony, and LG struggled. Something drastic needed to be done if Android was going to survive.
So in August 2011 Google bought Motorola Mobility, a struggling OEM with a knack for releasing dozens of mediocre phones per year.
Immediately after purchase the patent wars slowed down to a low burn (Only recently reignited by the RockStar Consortium). Some could argue that the Moto patents weren't worth the price tag, but I respond by saying it cannot be measured. No one can track the amount of lawsuits that were not filed due to the Moto patents.
Google stripped Motorola down. They cut around 60% of the head count to around 2,300, sold off the set top group, and focused the mobile group. In 2012 Motorola released at least 24 devices, by 2013 that number dropped to 8, 6 of which were already in the pipeline before the sale to Google. The remaining 2 devices, The Moto X and Moto G were the real prize. They showed the OEMs and consumers that not only could an Android device be well designed, updated in a timely fashion, and appeal to a large market, but it could also be done cheaply and without intrusive customization. It may not have been the greatest seller, but it took an OEM on the verge of failure and turned it into a company that has a chance at success.
Google reached out to OEMs and launched Google Play Edition devices in May 2013. Flagship devices from HTC and Samsung without a skin, sold unlocked directly to the consumer. Nothing but Pure Android. It expanded to include Sony, LG, And Motorola device by the end of the year. All the GPE devices have been updated to KitKat mere weeks after the OS’s release.
Days ago Samsung stuck a deal with Google to cross license their patents further solidifying a patent defense. Samsung also agreed to dial back their customizations and exclusive apps, a sign that the GPE program could be rubbing off on the OEM.
Lenovo does one thing really well. It sells to businesses. According to NPD, Lenovo sold 23.3% of all personal computing devices in the US for 2013. The vast majority of those to businesses. Imagine the reactions when they are presented a solution for mobile devices that would cost up to 50% less than current models, be supported under the same framework as their work stations, and function with little to no customization. Motorola could be in position to not only survive but thrive.
Google is playing a chess game. The Motorola acquisition, restructuring, and subsequent sale are just a few of the moves. But in those moves Google had accomplished three very important tasks. They have establish a large and solid patent portfolio as well as cross-patent agreements, they reduced fragmentation of the Android ecosystem, and they re-established a struggling OEM.