What Does Google Have in the Cards for Motorola?

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) announced the completion of its $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI) on Tuesday, just days after the companies gained approval for the acquisition from the Chinese government. European and U.S. regulators approved the deal in February.

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With the announcement, Google said it Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha had stepped down, and would be succeeded by Dennis Woodside, a former president of Google’s Americas region. Woodside oversaw planning for the Motorola integration. Motorola Mobility will be an independently-run division of Google.

So what’s next for the Google-owned Motorola group? Google CEO Larry Page said in a blog post announcing the news, “Dennis and the team at Motorola will be creating the next generation of mobile devices that will improve lives for years to come.”

No doubt those mobile devices will include both smartphones and tablets using Google’s Android software. However, Google will have to be careful not to alienate other hardware makers that use its Android platform. Right now, though Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has a vice grip on the tablet market with its iPad, the second-best seller, though miles behind, is Amazon’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle Fire, which is powered by Android.

However, Amazon is more the star with that one than Google, and though Android has become the most popular mobile OS in the country, Google doesn’t exercise the kind of control over it that Apple has over its iOS. With the lone exception of its Nexus device line, Google has no power to push its own software updates, leaving that up to carriers. And software updates have proven to be important to mobile customers.

So to gain control, Google will be opening up the Nexus program from one select partner, Samsung, to multiple hardware makers. No doubt Motorola Mobility will now be on board with the changes, which will require carriers to forfeit some power. In the past, Google has shown Android to be a less than lucrative venture — perhaps these coming changes will turn things around.

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