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Number6 got it right. Google bought Motorola's mobile phone business in order to acquire Motorola's intellectual property, and before it sold the company, it stipped out and retained all of the intellectual property (patents, etc.) that it needed for its own business. In other words, the Motorola that Google sold to Lenovo was a slimmed-down version of the company that Google had previously purchased. The difference between the price Google paid for Motorola and that price it got for selling the stripped-down version represents Google's valuation of the Motorola intellectual property that it retained for itself. I believe that Google's actions were quite shrewd.
Take note of one thing Lenovo isn’t getting - patents. The biggest threat facing Google isn’t whether or not it can function as a hardware company and make a few million from selling Android phones, it is getting hit with endless patent suits and potentially losing billions of dollars, even if the claim is questionable. Think about it, just this week they were ordered to pay some patent trolls that bought some old Lycos patents something like 1.5% of their AdSense revenue (I may be off half a percent or so). That is serious, serious money. So, yes, Lenovo can make Motorola braded devices now, but Google kept Motorola’s patent portfolio for itself, which could have paid for the acquisition on its own without a single device ever having been built.
In addition, Google was competing against its partners, and judging from the Nexus program, the company has at least 3 major manufacturers that are willing to work with them - Samsung, LG and HTC. Why create friction by competing against them. As the earlier post by nedhedge (sorry if I mispelled it, I can't see it while typing my answer) noted, Google makes it’s money off of ad revenue, not hardware sales.
Google makes money with software and advertising, period. Cell hardware is destined to be a mere commodity at lowest price - and its got a long way to go, all negative. Yes, its a "big" loss, but there is plenty more cash where that came from. Better to cut your non-core functions and reduce the distractions.
The Motorola purchase was always a riddle. Google never made a strong case for the purchase. In the end, the real question is "why did they buy it in the first place? Probably the decision was not sufficiently vetted - or, gulp, there wasnt even an established vetting process - hard as that is to swallow as the rationale for such a large purchase.
Anyway, Google's still quite young. This disruptive technology company will be sorting things out for some time yet.