How many times have we heard Motorola being spoken of in a negative light? Far too many times for us to count and it's not because journalists and bloggers in the tech world - be that mobile or otherwise - need to see a new device from a manufacturer every 6 - 8 months. It's because Motorola hasn't released a device that has wowed any of us, let alone be even a little bit creative in what feels like forever. Of course, we can't be too hard on Motorola, being acquired by a company such as Google, which incurred great scrutiny from global markets, is not an easy transition to make. For a long time now, Motorola have been stuck in a rut, and it's about time that Google helps get them out of that rut. To be clear, I'm not calling for the world's best ever SUPERAMAZINGGOOGLEPHONEFROMMOTOROLATHATCOULDORCOULDNOTBECALLEDTHEXPHONE, I just want to see a once great device manufacturer step up to the plate with the rest of them, like they used to do.
The RAZR's Edge
On November the 11th, Verizon and Motorola launched the Droid RAZR, and it was a pretty decent phone for the time. It was unfortunate for it to launch so close to the Galaxy Nexus that shipped with a whole new version of Android. I think the Droid RAZR line was the beginning of a lot of Motorola's problems. This isn't to say the Droid RAZR, the MAXX or the HD updates that came the following year are bad at all but, that's all that Motorola has been shipping this past year or so. You could say the Atrix HD was different but if you take a look at that device, you'll see that it's basically a Droid RAZR.
The RAZR line's resurrection is what symbolizes this whole attitude that Motorola seem to have adopted that doing what Verizon want is going to help them out. I'm pretty outspoken on carrier exclusives and think they're a fucking awful idea. You'll have to excuse my language there but there is absolutely no reason that AT&T, Verizon, Sprint or T-Mobile should get a device that no other carrier does. HTC are pretty bad for this as well, with the One X, their flagship from 2012's One Series hitting one carrier in the US. Carrier exclusives like the Droid RAZR line give Verizon a great set of phones to sell, but Motorola's brand value pretty much goes out the window. No matter how big the carrier is, if I can't buy a manufacturer's latest smartphone because of an exclusivity deal, I'm blaming the manufacturer and not the carriers.
The Google Factor
On August 15th 2011, Google announced that they were going to acquire Motorola Mobility for a cool $12.5 Billion. We all know that Google now own Motorola Mobility but, not a lot of you might know that the search giant primarily did it for the patents that the company hold. Google have been weak up until now on creating patents to protect their products and Larry Page himself, said that Google were looking to strengthen their patent portfolio. To put Moto's patent portfolio into perspective, they held 17,000 patents at the time Google bought them and 7,500 patents still pending.
Do any of us actually think that Google bought Motorola for the patents? Hell no.
Ever since the deal went through, we've been hearing about this firewall between the two companies, that prevents a special treatment towards Motorola Mobility when compared to other Google partners. I think that was the right decision for them to take and something like this has to stay in place to keep Android a truly open platform. Besides, the Open Handset Alliance wouldn't be pleased if Motorola started making the gold standard in Android phones while all the other members were forced to play catch-up.
Recently, we heard that Motorola's upcoming devices weren't "wow" by Google standards. That's a little worrying considering all the rumors we've been hearing about a phone that may or may not be called the X-Phone. Google's standards have certainly risen over the last couple of years, the Nexus 7 and the Nexus 4 both proved that Google were looking to ship good designs when it comes to software and the Chromebook Pixel really shows Google have good vision when it comes to hardware. Speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology Conference he had this to say concerning what's coming up from Motorola:
"The case with Motorola is that we've inherited a pipeline," Pichette said, "Motorola has a great set of products, but they're not really like "wow" by Google standards. Dennis Woodside and his team have inherited 18 months of pipeline that we have to drain right now."
This sort of thing needs to be dealt with. Motorola are by no means the company that they used to be and regardless of who owns them, they need to do something big in 2013 to regain some footing. Moto aren't alone in this, either, HTC are really struggling and this year might be the last year we see Sony ship a smartphone if the Xperia Z doesn't sell well. But 2013 is perhaps the most important time for Motorola to bounce-back. Google are going to announced some big things at this year's I/O conference, judging by the small .2 release from last Fall, it looks likely that this year is where we see the next major version of Android and Motorola need to be there to capitalize on that if they any hope of becoming relevant again.
If Motorola don't launch something truly different, and something that has the "wow" factor or they might not be able to come back again.