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Motorola purchase may bolster Google TV in bid to unseat Apple TV

Executives for both Motorola and Google made clear on Monday that they intend to take advantage of Motorola's existing presence in the high-definition set-top box space, where the Google TV has failed to gain traction against the Apple TV.

Motorola Mobility's primary business is in creating smartphones, which it will continue to do under Google's ownership. And the search company will also control the more than 17,000 patents owned by Motorola.

But as part of the $12.5 billion acquisition announced on Monday, Google will also gain access to products and devices from Motorola that extend well beyond the mobile phone business. One key element of the deal, acknowledged by executives during a conference call, is Motorola's set-top box business, where the company builds high-definition digital video recorders and other devices.

Motorola's "Video Solutions" line of products also offer sharing of content. One product under that umbrella, "Televation," allows users to rebroadcast live TV to other devices in their home. In addition, Motorola also builds and sells "SURFboard" branded cable modems, Voice over IP telephony adapters, and other hardware.

"They're a leading home device maker, and that's also a big opportunity," Google CEO Larry Page said of Motorola on Monday. "We're working with them in the industry to really accelerate innovation."

Motorola's chief executive, Sanjay Jha, discussed a "great convergence" he sees happening in technology, where the mobile world, with devices like smartphones and tablets, is merging with set-top boxes, allowing users to seamlessly share content between devices.

Jha highlighted the "close relationship" that Motorola has established with carriers and cable providers as a potential asset Google might be able to leverage through its acquisition. He said together, Google and Motorola will be able to "accelerate convergence" in the market.

Executives made no specific mention of the struggling Google TV platform, but Motorola's existing presence in the set-top box market is a clear asset as Google attempts to enter the space. And their comments made clear that Motorola's TV-based hardware and established relationships with cable providers were a selling point in the multi-billion-dollar deal.

While the first generation of Google TV faltered, Apple has found moderate success, selling roughly a half-million units per quarter. But executives at Apple have famously referred to the Apple TV as a "hobby," because it is not in the same caliber of product as the iPhone, iPad, Mac or iPod.

Of course, Apple is already pushing the "convergence" touted by Google and Motorola executives with its own AirPlay technology, release late last year with iOS 4.2. The new Apple TV, powered by the same iOS mobile operating system as the iPhone and iPad, can receive audio and even high-definition video wirelessly from Apple's mobile devices, allowing content to be shown on the big screen.