Why Google Will Dump Moto's Cable Biz

2:05 PM -- If Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) does indeed try to sell off Motorola Mobility LLC 's set-top box business after the acquisition closes, why in the wide, wide world of sports would it stop there?

Moto's cable business also includes set-top modems, cable modem termination systems (CMTSs), edge QAMs, video servers and video software that's not Android. Does anyone really believe that Google, despite its interesting fiber experiment in mid-America, will want to hold on to any of that? I can't find anyone who does, despite Moto's defense of it.

As one cable insider put it to me: One of the big reasons why Motorola Mobility has kept the cable business around is because it's a short-term cash cow that's been funding its mobile handset business. "At Google, that motivation no longer matters. They have plenty of money," he says.

And besides not being a great fit at Google, Motorola's cable business probably doesn't have the kind of scale that's attractive to it. Moto's lumped-in cable business could pigeonhole a company that prefers to sell to the masses. While some cable guys like that Android might help them clear up their set-top box software issues, many in the industry simply don't trust Google, fearful that it will undermine what cable is trying to do on the set-top box. (See Will Google Droid Up the Set-Top Box? )

From my discussions so far, there is widespread belief that Google is apt to saw off Moto's cable business and try to sell it off in whole or in parts, or just shut some stuff down.

The good news for Google is that it could find some buyers. Yesterday, we focused on some vendors that could help fill the gap with their existing set-top businesses. Today, here are some candidates that might flirt with buying part or all of Moto's cable business. (See Is the Set-Top Duopoly on Its Deathbed? )

Who might buy Moto's cable biz?
  • Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC)
    They've been looking for ways to deepen their relationship with cable, so this offers them a perfect opportunity to do so. It's not too hard to see them wanting to buy the whole division and integrating and managing it. Plus, the cable guys trust them.

  • Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS)
    Maybe there's too much product overlap here, but buying Moto's cable business would shore up Arris's budding set-top box business and turn the cable access market into a much closer horse race with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). But would Arris keep Moto's CMTS and edge QAM business going, or simply do this to buy market share? (See Cisco Tops CMTS Market .)

  • Casa Systems Inc.
    Casa's already got CMTS and edge QAMs, but it could use a shot in the arm to help it get more than a sliver of the market. If it could get Google to sell pieces of Moto that make the most sense to Casa, and Casa can raise the required money, that deal would ensure that there's still a No. 3 CMTS player to keep Cisco and Arris in check. Granted, that's a lot of ifs, making this a longshot. But there's some familiarity there -- several engineers from Moto and Casa hail from RiverDelta Networks, the CMTS startup that Motorola bought for $300 million way back in 2001. It might be a good time to reunite the [broad]band.

    There's yet another possibility that's making the rounds that could involve a prominent ghost of cable's technology past. It's a complicated and seemingly crazy idea, yet it's come up in conversations several times. And the more I chew on it, the less insane it sounds. I'll flesh that one out in a future post.

    — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

  • msilbey 12/5/2012 | 5:39:57 PM
    re: Why Google Will Dump Moto's Cable Biz

    And it all circles back around again. I didn't realize several of the Casa engineers hailed from Riverdelta too. 

    It's also somewhat ironic that the original GI business (acquired circa 2000) is the one that has to be spun off again. Of course we've been talking about that for years. There was maybe a brief period of time when Motorola could have made the merging of its mobile and cable businesses successful. but that moment passed years back. When the mobile business crashed, the cable unit was possibly a short-term savior. Then it went back to being the red-headed stepchild. 

    wanlord 12/5/2012 | 5:39:52 PM
    re: Why Google Will Dump Moto's Cable Biz

    How does this fit or not fit into Google strategy to deliver video over fiber? Do they just want the patents?

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