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What New Ideas Does Google Have Brewing At Motorola?

My Android phone just went splat. Google’s CEO says its Motorola division is working on that.
January 23, 2013

I was texting last weekend while stopped at a red light on my bicycle, and as the light turned green, I carelessly put the phone in my pocket and pedaled off.  Next thing I knew, my Android phone, a year-old Samsung Galaxy Nexus, had hit the pavement. The phone functions, but now the screen is webbed with cracks (ok, I may have deserved that). 

When Google closed its Motorola Mobility acquisition for $12.5 billion last May, it was mainly for the struggling hardware maker’s 17,000 mobile patents, to help defend Android in court. And as Google reported in its quarterly earnings call yesterday, the division is still operating at a $152 million loss in the fourth quarter. 

However, knowing Google, there is more to the acquisition than simply patents, and it hopefully has something to do with making our devices more durable.

On a quarterly earnings call yesterday, CEO Larry Page called for investors to be patient, hinting at products to come that tackle two very practical considerations for smartphone owners—battery life and durability. The company noted it had inherited a 12 to 18 month product pipeline from Motorola. “Think about your device.You shouldn’t have to worry about constantly recharging your phone. When you drop your phone, it shouldn’t go splat.  Everything should be a ton faster and easier,” Page said

The comments have fueled recent speculation about a Google “X Phone.” Some rumors, reported by Droid Life, indicate that Google might announce such a device its developers conference in May, and it will be sold through its Google Play store. 

Google is not known for its hardware, but it does have a long history of making practical improvements for consumers—take search, or Gmail, or Google Maps. That Google hired the former chief of DARPA (the Pentagon’s advanced research arm) as a senior executive for Motorola suggests an organization being restructured to innovate (see “Can DARPA’s Strategy Help Motorola Compete Again?”). Of course, the challenge for Google as Motorola launches devices will be to avoid alienating other Android hardware makers. It’ll be interesting to watch where Motorola heads over the next year. 

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