Google action: Cutting Motorola jobs, buying Frommer’s, going into copyright policing

Google‘s goings-on:

• Google announced Monday that it is cutting 4,000 Motorola Mobility jobs, a third of them in the United States, and closing a third of the mobile-phone pioneer’s more than 90 facilities around the world.

The Silicon Valley giant announced last year (and finalized in May) that it was buying the Motorola division for $12.5 billion, a deal that was seen mostly as a move to boost Google’s patent portfolio as the smartphone patent wars heated up. But the Illinois-based company could play a key role as the Mountain View company moves into making its own gadgets, although in cell phones Motorola still will compete against other Android makers.

Dennis Woodside, Motorola Mobility’s new CEO, told the New York Times that part of the company’s new plan is to go for coolness over quantity. He said Motorola will make fewer devices.

Google shares are up more than 2 percent to about $657.25 as of this post, amid a mostly down day for tech stocks.

• Meanwhile, Google is continuing to beef up its content business. The search giant is buying travel-guide maker Frommer’s for an undisclosed amount, John Wiley & Sons announced today. It’s not the first time Google has ventured into guidebooks; it bought restaurant-guide maker Zagat last year. Google will combine the Frommer’s and Zagat brands, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Frommer’s buy also boosts its travel offerings; Google’s purchase of travel-software firm ITA was approved last year.

This latest purchase of a content provider is bound to come up as another example to cite in the persistent questions about whether Google favors its own properties in search results.

• And speaking of content, and in case you missed it Friday, Google said that starting this week its search engine will be demoting sites with “high numbers” of copyright claims against it. The move is drawing mixed reactions, with some expressing concern that Google is giving in to what many see as the entertainment industry’s heavy-handed approach to fighting piracy.

As the Wall Street Journal points out, Google’s move comes as it peddles music, movies and TV shows — meaning it has to play nice with the entertainment industry, with which it has had a rocky relationship. (It has, for example, had to respond to copyright violations on YouTube, which it owns.) The shaky Google-entertainment industry relationship is reflected in the reaction of Michael O’Leary, a senior executive vice president for the Motion Picture Association of America, according to the Los Angeles Times: “We will be watching this development closely — the devil is always in the details — and look forward to Google taking further steps to ensure that its services favor legitimate businesses and creators, not thieves.”

The Los Angeles Times article also points out that public advocacy groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge worry about what will go on behind the scenes, and about the possibility that Google will unintentionally demote legitimate sites.



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