Monday, August 15, 2011 at 4:26 pm.

What is Google buying, anyway? Here’s a breakdown of Motorola Mobility

Rudy Krolopp

Motorola DynaTAC cellphone prototypes, 1983

Motorola Mobility, which Google is buying for $12.5 billion, isn’t just a cellphone manufacturer. And it isn’t just a pile of patents. So what is it?

On Jan. 4, Motorola Mobility spun off from Motorola (now known as “Motorola Solutions”). It includes Motorola’s mobile devices and home businesses, while Motorola Solutions retained the “enterprise mobility solutions” and “networks” businesses.

Here’s how Motorola Mobility describes its product categories on its website:

  • Mobile phones, including smartphones, mobile computing devices and tablets
  • Software and services, including MOTOBLUR and Medios
  • Digital entertainment devices
  • Digital and IP video solutions
  • Passive Optical Networking solutions
  • Bluetooth® accessories
  • Cable modems and gateways
  • Video distribution systems

That includes cable set-top boxes, cordless home phones, and consumer GPS navigation devices. It also includes making walkie-talkie phones for Sprint’s iDEN (Nextel/Boost) network. Here is a recent slide deck (PDF) describing Motorola Mobility, including financials.

Motorola Mobility has about 17,000 patents and 8,000 pending applications, mostly in mobile devices, but some in home devices. It also has a patent cross-licensing agreement in place with Motorola Solutions. (Perhaps that now creates takeover value for Motorola Solutions?)

Motorola also owns Timbuktu, the remote-access software.

Motorola bought 280 North last year, which was working on a web-based app platform. I don’t know if or how that will be integrated into Google. But I know that at least one of its founders does not currently work at Motorola, and designer/developer Thijs van der Vossen says on Twitter that all of the original 280 North people have left.

Motorola Mobility is in control of the Motorola brand, but Motorola Solutions has a license to use it.

Motorola Mobility Ventures, a venture capital arm, has investments in several companies, including:

  • Amobee, a mobile advertising firm
  • Vivotech, a mobile payments firm
  • Moblyng, a mobile gaming firm
  • Scanbuy, a mobile barcodes firm

Motorola Solutions, on the other hand, makes 2-way radios, barcode and RFID products, and wireless broadband infrastructure, and is not part of the Google deal. It also seems to have a separate venture capital arm, with its own holdings, including some of the same as Motorola Mobility.

Related: 10 questions about Google’s Motorola deal