China's antitrust regulators gave Google's $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility the nod Saturday provided Google's Android operating system remains open and free-of-charge for the next five years.
The "free" stipulation apparently doesn't apply to applications or services, but it remains to be seen how that works out.
Google will have to report about its compliance with the terms to a Chinese monitor. "At the end of the five years, the Ministry of Commerce will continue to assess the state of the Chinese smartphone operating system market," the agency said on its web site.
Google's relationship with China has been tense since it moved its Chinese search operation to Hong Kong complaining of censorship. There's also the little matter of China reportedly hacking its computers and stealing its secrets.
China was the last approval the giant deal needed so it might close this week. It will make Google a maker of phones, tablets and other devices like set-top boxes.
MMI, needless to say, makes Android devices, raising issues about what Android terms will be for other manufacturers. It has also courted patent infringement suits from Apple and Microsoft and an investigation by the European Commission into its licensing terms for FRAND patents.
In a statement, the Chinese ministry aligned behind Motorola's FRAND obligations. How China might interpret FRAND is unclear.
Google will now own MMI's 17,000 patents and 7,500 patent applications, but has already backed Motorola's unreasonably high prices. Ironically China wants Google not to discriminate on Android.
Chinese phone makers ZTE and Huawei use Android and have to compete against foreign handset makers that also use Android. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Google would abandon its practice of giving early access to new Android code to only one company.