Google has secured Chinese approval to complete its acquisition of Motorola Mobility, the search giant has confirmed, though it was reportedly forced to commit to Android openness to sway the decision. Chinese regulators had stood as the final hurdle for Google to complete, with the two companies being given the green-light by both US and European authorities back in February. According to unconfirmed reports, however, China’s price for giving the deal its blessing was a renewed commitment by Google to ensure Android remained freely available for at least five years.
That agreement was described as a “main condition” in order to secure approval, a source not authorized to publicly discuss the deal told Reuters. Android has been adopted by many Chinese OEMs, used in everything from phones to tablets to set-top boxes and more, though often in ways that do not validate the devices for Google’s official suite of apps and official branding.
For its part, though not commenting on any allegiance to openness, Google appears to be treating the deal – and its approach to Android – as business as usual. “Our stance since we agreed to acquire Motorola has not changed,” spokesperson Niki Fenwic said in a statement, “and we look forward to closing the deal.”
Google’s announcement last year that it intended to buy Motorola Mobility in a deal worth $12.5bn prompted no shortage of surprise in the Android ecosystem. Until now, Google – and the Open Handset Alliance, officially the ruling body guiding Android development, of which Google is the most significant member – has generally taken a back seat from too much involvement in the device market itself, content only to give manufacturers a gentle shove with its Nexus range of “pure Android” phones.
With Motorola brought in-house, however, suspicions were raised that Google might take a more aggressive approach and follow in Apple’s footsteps, marginalizing other Android OEMs such as HTC and Samsung in the process. Google execs promised that would not happen, with talk of a “firewall” between the two companies, but have met with no small amount of skepticism in response.
The Chinese drive for openness would seemingly mean that Android will remain available for all who want it, at least for the next half-decade, though without full details of the deal it’s impossible to know under what conditions that will be the case. The acquisition is expected to close early next week, according to a Motorola spokesperson.