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MWC: Motorola execs admit Google cared little for firm's success

27 Feb 2014
Motorola MWC 2014 keynote

BARCELONA: Top Motorola executives have shed light on their time at Google, revealing the firm rarely got invovled with its product development or innovation efforts.

Motorola senior vice president of Software Engineering Steve Horowitz, senior vice president of Supply Chain and Operations Mark Randall and product manager Rick Osterloh made the claim during a session at Mobile World Congress, attended by V3.

Horowitz detailed his experience working at Motorola after Google purchased it in 2011. He said the search giant never pushed or invested in Motorola: "Google wanted us to be successful but never needed us to," he said.

"I wish we had a special relationship with the Android team but before meetings I waited in the lobby like everyone else. We got treated like any other OEM. Google was very careful to not give us any special treatment."

Randall agreed with Horwitz, arguing that all product innovation during the time at the search giant came from Motorola, not Google. Randall highlighted Motorola's Moto G as proof of his claim.

"I think to when we were at the start of Moto G and going round and asking what people needed. I'd go everywhere taking feedback from customers and using it to find what people wanted," he said.

Osterloh highlighted the software features in Motorola's flagship Moto X smartphone as another example. "With the Moto X we set out to solve a very important list of user problems. For one, we made it so you could control it with your voice. We saw a massive uptake of use on this and helped change the way people use smartphones," he said.

The Moto G and Moto X are two of a select few smartphones to be released in the UK by Motorola during its tenure as a Google company. The devices took an alternative approach to Motorola's previous Razr series of devices and ran using a close-to untouched version of Android. The move was generally considered to have been a consequence of Motorola's relationship with Google.

However, Horowitz said Google had nothing to do with the decision and it was actually a strategy by Motorola to differentiate its smartphones from its competitors', which generally run on skinned versions of Android.

"I know where [our] strengths are and I feel that Android's something to leave with the Android engineers. We're not about making useless changes," he said. "This strategy lets us ship Android upgrades at a much faster rate than anyone else. For example we shipped our KitKat upgrade to the Moto X 19 days after release."

He added that Motorola plans to continue this strategy after the Lenovo purchase is finalised and the company has no plans to experiment with alternative ecosystems.

"We're very focused on Android and I feel moving to another ecosystem would be detrimental to us. I really think the Android team is doing a great job and don't see any reason for us to experiment with different ecosystems," he said.

Randal agreed, suggesting Motorola plans to take advantage of Lenovo's improved supply chain and hardware portfolio, rather than software, after the deal.

"Lenovo is good at taking the first unit and ramping production to high volumes and shipping quickly. The other thing is their technologies. They'll give us better access to better and newer tech," he said.

It is currently unclear when the first Motorola-Lenovo smartphones will hit the market. The Motorola executives promised that the company is working on a number of new smartphones and a single wearable smartwatch for release at an unspecified time later this year.

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Alastair Stevenson

Alastair has worked as a reporter covering security and mobile issues at V3 since March 2012. Before entering the field of journalism Alastair had worked in numerous industries as both a freelance copy writer and artist.

View Alastair's Google+ profile

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