Just an hour after reports emerged Google (GOOG) is set to sell Motorola's phone ops to Lenovo (LNVGY), the deal has been announced by Larry Page. Lenovo will pay $2.91B for the struggling, loss-generating smartphone maker; Google will retain the "vast majority" of its patents.
Page explains the deal by stating the smartphone market is "super competitive," and that "it helps to be all-in." He promises the sale doesn't have broader implications for Google's hardware efforts.
Google paid $12.5B for Motorola Mobility in 2011. After backing out the Lenovo sale, the Arris sale, and $3.5B in cash, Google effectively paid ~$3.7B for Motorola's patents, assuming one doesn't count the losses the phone unit has produced under Google's control.
The sale expands Lenovo's U.S. presence, and gives it access to Motorola's respected hardware engineering teams as it tries to grab high-end Android share from market leader Samsung (SSNLF). IDC estimates Lenovo had a 4.9% smartphone share in Q4 (up from 4.1% a year ago).
The deal also removes a point of friction between Google and its Android partners. It shortly follows a report stating Google has pressured Samsung to tone down its Android UI changes and more strongly emphasize Google's apps/services, as it tries to exert greater control over Android's look and feel.