Google has announced plans to sell handset unit Motorola Mobility to China's Lenovo for $2.91 billion, but hold on to the majority of the division's patent portfolio.
In a blog post announcing the deal, Google CEO Larry Page called the sale “an important move for Android users everywhere.” He said that considering how competitive the handset market is, the company believes that Motorola will be better served with Lenovo.
Google acquired Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion in 2012, in a deal widely believed to have been motivated primarily by acquiring Motorola's horde of mobile patent to protect Android against patent infringement claims.
Page said Motorola’s patents “have helped create a level playing field, which is good news for all Android’s users and partners... Google will retain the vast majority of Motorola’s patents, which we will continue to use to defend the entire Android ecosystem.”
Specifically, Google will retain around 15,000 of Motorola's 17,000 patents. As part of the deal, Lenovo will receive a license to these patents, as well as securing the Motorola Mobility brand and trademark portfolio.
Although Google has kept Motorola Mobility at arms length, its direct ownership of a handset maker has been a potential cause for conflict among other Android smartphone vendors. Divesting the handset operations while maintaining the patent portfolio will resolve this issue.
Page said the sale does not signal a larger shift away from producing hardware. “The dynamics and maturity of the wearable and home markets, for example, are very different from that of the mobile industry,” he said.
The deal still requires regulatory approval in both the US and China.