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The Big Question About Google's Motorola Acquisition

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- We are only days away from Google's (GOOG - Get Report) first earnings release since it closed its largest acquisition ever: Motorola Mobility.

Unlike Google's previous quarterly reports, this one won't be an all-sweetness-light-and-jingles affair. Instead, it is likely to be more like a congressional oversight hearing chaired by Darrell Issa (R., Calif.).

In other words, Google's management had better have a great story to tell about what it will do with the new Motorola businesses, or there will be some angry shareholders.

When Google reported results earlier in 2012 -- January and April -- the stock tanked in response. Does Google know what it takes to prevent that from happening a third time in a row?

In it last quarter (March), Motorola did $3.1 billion in sales and lost $86 million. Breaking it down, the mobile device business had $2.2 billion in sales and an operating loss of $121 million, compared to the Home division's $884 million in sales and a $68 million operating profit. Considering Google's own $10.6 billion in revenue and $3.4 billion in operating profit, this acquired Motorola business could have a material impact on results.

If Motorola's bottom-line results improve significantly and it turns a profit, this acquisition could at least help Google's EPS. Likewise, if Motorola deteriorates further, it will drag the mother ship with it down.

In order to understand Google's options better, we need to break down Motorola's businesses into four major categories:

1. The dominant reason Google acquired Motorola.

2. The "obvious" business that fits with Google's possible long-term strategy.

3. The parts of Motorola that are at least plausible in a Google strategy.

4. The other parts of Motorola that Google would presumably have no interest in.

Let's take these one by one:

1. It is presumed that Google's panic-purchase of Motorola had everything to do with Motorola's patents relevant to Google's Android strategy. Google's licensees -- most notably HTC -- were at the time taking it on the chin from Apple (AAPL - Get Report) in the patent wars, and Google's acquisition of Motorola was perceived as the bold but necessary step to stand up for its ecosystem.

In other words, the patents aren't going anywhere, no matter what.

2. It follows to some degree that Google might integrate Motorola's smartphone and tablet businesses in order to compete directly with Apple and Research In Motion (RIMM). After all, they are both vertically integrated -- hardware and software. In addition, Apple is constantly held out as the example everyone must now follow because the integrated formula has been so successful.
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