I've been reading too many financial news releases lately, because I'm starting this Editor's Corner with a disclaimer. I once worked for Jerrold, which was a division of General Instrument Corp. which eventually was swallowed by Motorola (NYSE: MSI) which, as we all know, split itself into two groups, one of which—the General Instrument piece—was swallowed by Google (Nasdaq: GOOG). I even have a small lunch-money Motorola pension I can eventually tap (I hope).
As anyone who's worked in the incestuous industry known as cable knows, Jerrold/GI/Motorola people are everywhere. They're like that sign on the bridge from Morrisville, Pa. to Trenton, N.J.: "Trenton makes, the world takes." Only in this instance the sign should read, "Jerrold makes, the telecom industry takes."
All these Jerrold Dinosaurs, as some call themselves, like to talk and gossip. While I can honestly say I don't get as many rumors as weather reports on a daily basis—it's close but no cigar—I hear more than a few rumblings about what's going on at the ol' stomping ground, from folks who are both there and long gone.
Thus, I've been hearing for months that Google was going to do something with its Motorola piece; that it just bought Moto for the wireless patents and it doesn't give a damn about the old GI business. The rumors about how Google was treating the old company heated up briefly recently when executive fixtures Dan Moloney and Geoff Roman took their leave. There's always talk that Ed Breen might not be content to run the existing Tyco (NYSE: TYC) empire but would want to add the Moto piece to the mix. Then there's Mike Pulli down at Pace (LSE: PIC) who might want the Moto set-tops. Wishful thinking? Reality? Who knows? That's why rumors are called rumors, not facts.
I've always questioned why Google would want to shed the business. Keeping the Motorola pay TV infrastructure technology would seem to make sense for a company that wants to integrate its Android platform into more cable and IPTV equipment and certainly link its mobile infrastructure into cable. Moto, towards the end, had overcome the proprietary negativity of an insulated cable industry and was freely and openly selling ammunition to the old telco enemies, so there wouldn't be a problem with cable operators reacting badly to that practice.
The only problem would happen if Google decided to get into the TV business on its own. A competitive Google pay-TV service, I reckon, might be a bit too much for the Comcasts (Nasdaq: CMCSA) and Time Warners (NYSE: TWC) and Coxes and Cablevisions (NYSE: CVC) of the world to accept. I could almost hear Brian Roberts paraphrase Blazing Saddles: "All right, we'll take AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ), but we don't want Google."
Thus, it seems, the rollout of Google Fiber in Kansas City—whether that effort is real or a tease—would seem to spell the end of a short-lived Googlerola. If Google wants to be an operator, it can't be a vendor. Even Milton Jerrold Shapp understood that.
And if Google can't sell boxes to operators, it has to sell them to someone else. The wheel, not yet in motion, will soon start spinning and the bidders will start lining up. Where Motorola-cum General Instrument-cum Jerrold will land is still a spinning blur. That it will land somewhere seems to be pretty clear right now.--Jim