Where's the 'Wow!'? – Motorola purchase is a long-term plan, Google's CFO reminds

Patrick Pichette said nothing shocking. Google's Chief Financial officer did not put his foot in his mouth. He didn't slam Motorola Mobility, the company Google acquired in 2012, as being lazy or incapable or inept or unable to make a quality smartphone that people would want to buy.

No, when Pichette spoke today at the Morgan Stanley Technology Conference (as relayed by The Verge), he simply reminded us of the truth. In fact, he didn't really say anything new. Motorola has current manufacturing obligations that must be met. (When companies don't do that, bad things happen.) And those current obligations, while serving some sort of purpose in the smartphone world (save for that pink RAZR MAXX HD, perhaps), simply aren't up to what folks in Mountain View would consider a "wow" product.

None of this should surprise anyone in the slightest.

What he said ...

Here's the meat of what Pichette actually said in his talk:

The case for Motorola, as I've said many times on the [earnings] calls, we've inherited a pipeline. Motorola has a great set of assets. And it had a pipeline of products that were fine, but not really to the standard to what Google would say was "wow." "Innovative." "Transformative."So we have been working really hard, through [CEO] Dennis Woodside and his team, to take a hold of Motorola, really kind of putting it on a trajectory that's much more what we believe at Google is the right mindset, the right timeframe. You invest for the long term.But we've inherited 18 months of pipeline that we actually have to drain right now, and while we're actually building the next wave of innovation and product line. And so far, as we've said many times in the past, we have to go through this transition. These are not easy transitions. We're very optimistic. We're very supportive. And we have a great plan for Motorola.

Go back and look at all those phones at the top of this editorial. I've handled nearly all of them. Reviewed many of them myself. There are some decent enough phones up there. And the original Motorola Droid deserves some serious credit for being the smartphone that essentially launched Android. But at the same time, as much (if not more) credit has to go to Verizon's marketing budget.

But Pichette is right. Where's the "Wow!"? I'd argue out of all those phones up there, only the Droid RAZR MAXX -- with its whopping 3300 mAh battery crammed into what, by today's standards, isn't a huge footprint -- gets anywhere near "wow." Innovative? Transformative? Not quite. That's not to say I don't think every company should try to get as much battery into a phone as possible -- Motorola should be commended here. But did it change the industry? Or the way we all use our phones? Not hardly.

Great expectations

Google is, well, Google. It's the company that successfully index the Internet. Brought us Google Maps. Driverless cars. And, most recently, Google Glass. 

And that's just the stuff we know about.

Those are products that have changed the world. Or that have a good chance to. I remember traveling through the Southeast with my parents in my formative years, often serving as navigator with a paper map spread out on the dash, trying to approximate how long it'd take us to get to Greenville, trying to remember to spot mile marker posts and exit signs. Last week, I went to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress with just a phone. Hell, I don't even carry cash when I travel, for the most part.

That's a transformative service.

For an even better look at what Pichette meant, I'd point you to Wired's piece from January by Steven Levy, "Google's Larry Page on Why Moon Shots Matter." The tl;dr version: Go big or go home.

So what's next?

Honestly, I have no idea. The largely unfounded hype over this "Motorola X" phone has folks excited, but there's not a single shred of tangible proof of what we'll see next from Motorola, and when we'll see it. (I'm one of those crazy news people who actually likes surprises, unless I'm the one spoiling it.) We've got more than enough work to do with actual products that actually exist and you can actually purchase. 

Wall Street is not known for its patience. Most bloggers aren't either. 

Google, however, has the time, the patience and the resources to make something great out of Motorola. But it won't happen in a day. Or in a year. But when it's ready, Google will bring the "wow." It might not be a hit. Sometimes Google swings and misses, even if it was a good cut at the ball. 

But Google has a plan, and it's sticking to it.

  • #1 they need to get beyond their reliance on Verizon.
  • This is 100% correct. If you told your average person that Verizon owned Motorola they'd probably believe you. The other carriers rarely carry a Moto phone of significance and when they do it seems ill supported.
  • Obviously there is no proof but I would imagine they are going to be making some unbranded GSM phones (a la Nexus) when this "pipeline" we keep hearing about gets cleared out. Personally my hope is to see them become Nexus only manufacturer. Would give fans of vanilla Android more variety and MotoBlur sucks anyway so I say put it out to pasture (though I don't see that happening).
  • +1. I liked their latest Razr line, especially the M. But, I don't want to switch to Verizon, especially I only have one device.
  • I'm on Verizon with a Gnex from the OG D1. Vzw is ruining the Droid Brand and running it in the ground IMO. Also didn't google Just announce that the new Motorola phone is going to have barnd new innovation that neither Apple or Samsung has? That is why everyone is waiting for the X phone, and that is said to have Stock android as well. Now is a very good time to buy Motorola Stock, at $60 a share, and sit on it for the next 2-3 years and watch it grow. Google now has a platform to use for its own innovation to make money from with Motorola while also creating innovation for it's partners with Android, but don't have to give it all away for free anymore. Besides who knows what patents Motorola has from over the past 75 years, they could be sitting on big ideas and just waiting for technology to catch up in order to implement it.
  • The publicly traded Motorola stock is Motorola Solutions- this is totally separate from the Motorola which was purchased by Google and produces (among other things) handsets like the Droid line.
  • People need to realize that the US isn't the entire world. Motorola also have marketshares around the globe. For instance, Motorola can be found on several Canadian carriers such as WIND, Rogers, Bell and the subcarriers of the Big 3 in Canada. As for the US market, you're absolutely correct, while the DROID brand is rather successful, Motorola needs to pursue their own branding and diversify their carrier portfolio in the States.
  • True, But North America is like the only continent that sells Motorola phones? i don't see them here in The Netherlands. Also didn't seen them in the UK (correct me if i'm wrong). I really liked Motorola phones in the past but i was unable to get my hands on them so now i got a sony (which i don't regret btw) and i had a HTC (which also was a great phone).
  • You do occasionally see a Motorola device in the UK, but as we all Know Motorola only support the devices sold in the US, and what poor support the rest of the globe gets isn't worth buying a smartphone for. They could produce fantastic hardware but if the software support is severely lacking its just not worth purchasing. Take the Xoom OG for a perfect example they marketed it in the UK as a GED but the fact of the matter was only the US Xoom's were GED's the rest of the planet got a poorly supported device. This kind of attitude to the rest of the planets markets isn't acceptable by any means from any manufacturer and will and has put the consumer off. I do like the look of the RAZR MAXX and that entire line but would never purchase a poorly supported device if it ever made it to UK shelves, I look forward to seeing what Goggles plans are for Motorola and if there intending on making them the Nexus manufacturer then fantastic as they would then be supported directly from Google and that's the Kind of software support I expect when paying good money for a device. When purchasing a laptop PC netbook or windows tablet you expect Microsoft to support the operating system for years to come, and when your paying that kind of money as a consumer why should't you! Why should smartphones be any different, they can cost as much if not more than some laptops in some cases so why not expect the same kind of support?
  • This goes right back to the Pipeline statement!
    They have OBLIGATIONS to Verizon to fill. I would imagine that is the first thing Google is trying to get through. It doesn't mean that they aren't going to sell phones to Verizon after the current pipeline is drained it just means that the stodgy "Droid" line will quit being so, well, stodgy.
    I also think people forget how long product development timelines actually ARE.
    Motorola is a "Big Ship", it doesn't make tight turns. it makes wide sweeping turns, and right now it is making one. We just don't see it YET! Come on Google, encourage Motorola to design and build some great phones that people can afford. (Heck, bring some manufacturing back to the USA!)
  • bat a hit*
  • Motorola may not have had any WOW/Game-changing devices since the DROID, but they have always been the standard (or possibly the exception) when it came to Android build quality, followed CLOSELY by HTC. I've never liked Sammy's plasticky phones, and much appreciate the sturdiness that Moto's phones offer. Essentially, even if the "Old" Moto hasn't changed the game in a while, other OEMs could learn a thing or two about build quality from Moto.
  • This isn't surprising at all and to think this is what Google brought to ward off Samsung...Hate to say it Motorola is one of the BIGGEST JOKES of the android platform. But they rather be concerned with Samsung Google is ridiculous in my eyes. They need to focus on the sagging manufacturers that are not pulling their weight in the android universe instead of worrying about Samsung. The bottom line here without Samsung the android platform wouldn't even be credible even Google's NEXUS LINE is very soft especially compared to Samsung. As I stated before and will always continue to say SAMSUNG IS ANDROID 213 million handsets sold 40% of the technology market that alone speak for it's self. Google better be thanking their lucky stars.
  • I have always believed that Google, Inc. should sell the entire Android division to Samsung. The question is... does Samsung have the will and pocketbook to buy Android?
  • This is even dumber than what richardyarell said. Google should sell Android to Samsung? Samsung had an OS before. It BOMBED. Why? Because Samsung stinks at that sort of thing. Touchwiz is testament to that.
    Samsung is flourishing because Android is available so universally, not the other way around.
    Seriously, if you're this blind and stupid, just stay off of the internet.
  • Don't be an ass. Nobody benefits from Samsung having a virtual monopoly so stop hoping for one. Ignorant stupid fanboys with an ignorant and stupid tribal mentality. Samsung built a few decent phones. Whoopee. They also leveraged their manufacturing capability and marketed their products well. Big whoop.
  • And the ever evolving CEO of HTC/Sprint/Verizon.... uhhh wait make that T Mobile & Samsung speaks his wisdom. We are all better off now.
  • Oh just stop it with this crap already. So you would pick Samsung over Android? What an idiot. You know nothing about Android, Samsung, or anything for that matter.
  • 1. Congratulations. You know how to copy and paste from here: http://androidheadlines.com/2013/02/motorolas-next-devices-will-not-wow-... and here: http://www.androidpolice.com/2013/02/28/googles-cfo-says-new-moto-produc...
    2. As I said at those other websites, despite your childish way of thinking, Google didn't purchase Motorola to "ward off Samsung". Google purchased Motorola for the patents (in defense from Apple) and now for more control of Motorola, to show what a real Google phone could be. Stupid fanboy.
    3. "As I stated before and will always continue to say SAMSUNG IS ANDROID" And you'll always be wrong. The OS came before Touchwiz and Nature UI, the things that arguably made Samsung "big". Take away the OS, and Samsung's got nothing. Idiot.
  • "a real Google phone" Only way we get a "real" Google phone is if Google closes Android. Samsung and their TouchWiz interface is very much in the spirit of Android.
  • Some, like me, hate TouchWiz. I tried to like the SGS3 and after a week could not live with it. Weak antennas, cheap feel, hated TouchWiz so I switched back to the RAZR Maxx HD
  • "...what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."
  • *cough cough* HP! This is how one company buys another company and continues its success going forward.
  • I think that it has always been about the software with Motorola. If the software would have been stock the whole time instead of MotoBlur then we wouldn't be talking about this with Motorola. Motorola would have been number 1 and the other OEM's would have been trying to play catch up. When the Droid 2 came out that was the downfall for Motorola. I mean think about it, the Droid brought Motorola back from the depths of hell and the Droid 2 was the pitfall down that way again. All the software was the issue the whole time, not the hardware. Put stock android on a Droid X and that instantly becomes the most popular phone Motorola ever makes, even more popular than the OG Droid. Makes sense to me.
  • Put a marketing campaign like the original DROID had behind any phone and it'll be a hit. lol. stock does not automatically equal sales.
  • I agree with you on the marketing dollars, but I also think that the software on the D2 was absolutely horrid - that was MotoBlur, and that was just bad. I like where they are at right now - they aren't changing much, but they are making it their own with the minor updates they are doing to it (themed icons, swipe-left for quick settings, SmartActions, etc.). That is the software they need to continue refining.
  • +1 As much as I love stock, it's certainly not drawing the crowds in.
  • Because its not being marketed.
  • Exactly.
    I have seen roughly 532 (roughly) samsung commercials.
    i have seen roughly 10 google/nexus commercials. more than half of which are for the nexus 7. if google dropped some coin on marketing the Nexus phones more, you would see their numbers going up.
  • True, Droid Does!
  • Really you don't think the OG Droid changed everything? The Droid X (not the god aweful x2) didn't begin the race for larger screens? The Droid Razr and Razr Maxx didn't push the envelope when it comes to thin? Moto's products have not only lead the industry but have been a disruptive force with in it (in reference to the OG Droid). Very shortsided comment, Android's current succes is owed to Motorola.
  • I'm not taking anything away from Motorola at all, all I'm saying is that it was software related. About every time that a new Motorola phone came out it was being hated on because of the software. Back to what I said, if the Droid X had stock android on it then it would have sold like crazy. Software is my reasoning for the state that Motorola is in now. Hardware is second to none.
  • radgatt: I wasn't refering to your comment but Google's CFO. Sorry if you thought otherwise.
  • oh ok, my bad
  • It's too bad Google/Motorola didn't feel their current customer obligations (at the time) had to be met. Yes, I own a Photon. Yes, I'm still bitter about the bald-faced lies. I've given up on hoping for ICS or JB, but I'd be happy (relatively, that is) if they'd just unlock the bootloader so I can at least *try* something else to see if it would fix all the bugs in 2.3.5. But I won't hold my breath.
  • lol.
  • You're not the only one who feels that way. 2.3.5 hasn't been an improvement by any stretch of imagination, I have more WiFi connections issues than I ever did. The only way we'd ever get anything from Moto is if some truly major security flaw was discovered...otherwise, we're just an ugly stepchild that they pretend to not know anymore. Still bitter, 8 mos until I get to vote with my wallet.
  • Omg all the hate for Motorola and Verizon. Sorry if other carriers wanted Motorola they should have stepped up to the plate and play ball. Verizon took a chance with Motorola and android and made it explode. Sorry folks want cartoonish and pretty colors Motorola kept it simple which helped with updates. The industrial design was is amazing the radios are top notch. But that isn't what the pubic wanted. Yeah blast Verizon for the lock down not Motorola. But I can say this after 1 week with T-Mobile its a joke 2g what year is this? Verizon has the money and towers to play the game. So my nexus 4 rocks being tethered to vzw service.
  • Hey, Verizon deserves the hate. They've proven time and again they despise their customers, and think of us merely as walking piles of cash to siphon from and lie to. The reason they're the biggest dog in the yard is merely because they have the largest network. If they didn't, and if there was another carrier with the nationwide coverage to match Verizon, do you have any idea how many of their customers would jump ship immediately? But there isn't, and Verizon knows it, so they charge what they want and do what they want, and they know nobody will do anything about it. As far as Motorola, I loved my DX. The device felt good in my hands. It was a sturdy device, and I was never worried about breaking it. It had great performance, and was just a good, solid phone, all around. My Galaxy Nexus, feels cheaper. I know it isn't, not necessarily, but when you build a phone with "soft" plastic, and no Gorilla Glass, that's what you get. My mom's S3 feels even more plastic-y. And the radios are garbage. Granted, my GNex is awesome because it's a Nexus. But that's the ONLY thing I like about it more than my old DX. A Motorola Nexus device would own the world. End of story.
  • I'm not sure how Verizon despises their customers. Is this because they lock down their phones? Because if that you argument get over it - their is a specific reason they do it. It is because people who don't know what they are doing try to put rom's on their phone screw up their phone, then go into a store or call customer service for help. And all that support costs Verizon money. Alot of money. And it's completely avoidable by locking the phones down. In the early days of Android devices at Verizon we had tons of customers who had issues because someone they knew rooted their phone for them and then this caused instability in the phone (usually the radios) and they had problems with it. That's not Verizon's fault but they of course had to try to service their customer. So many times we would warranty the phone for the customer even though we specifically told people it would void their warranty to root the phone. I'm biased. I worked at Sprint for a decade and spent the last 5 years at Verizon - but quit whining how expensive Verizon is. Seriously. Verizon is expensive because they are the best. Why are they the best? Because they routinely dump more money into their infrastructure than all the other 3 nationals COMBINED. They spend 6 billion+ a year on upgrading their network infrastructure. That is a huge investment. While at Sprint they barely spent a 10th of that annually, some years less. If you want cheap go with Tmobile or Sprint and deal with the poor coverage. If you want the best coverage then pay a little more and get Verizon. Either way don;t whine about it - if you don't like pay a little more get something else it is your right as a consumer.
  • Well, say what you want people, but everytime I use my moto maxx hard for 2 full days while my friends are tinkering with settings or looking for chargers, I say "Wow!" =)
  • +1.
  • I'd like to see the contract that Moto is abligated to. Does it read "You are required to provide 4 more uninspiring handsets for our network before you are allowed to provide our network with amazing handsets..." Honestly, what carrier is going to insist on bland handsets if Moto was actually ready to provide awesome handsets? -Suntan
  • When I switched from my Rezound to the Razr Max HD, I sure said wow about the battery life and build quality. Not sure why all the hate for Verizon. They simply perform. No dropped calls, consistent data, etc. If it just works, why is this so bad?!
  • Because you pay $100/month for 2GB of data when you can get unlimited data without throttling for $70 at Sprint or T-Mobile. Also it isn't GSM.
  • Haha. My iPhone was unuseable on Sprint unless attached to wifi. Verizon just works. T-mobile is not as cheap as you claim. Looked into it and it is almost as expensive as VZW
  • Almost. And considering it's unlimited and cheaper sound like a win. As long as you have coverage of course Lol.
  • 1. Mostly because your iPhone wasn't 4G. I'm in a Network Vision area, and the service is perfectly acceptable...not amazing, but acceptable.
    2. $390 (with tax and shipping) for a 4G DC-HSPA+ Nexus 4 plus a $60/month prepaid unlimited plan (there are cheaper plans, but I'll use this one) is better in the long run than a $200 subsidized, locked down CDMA/LTE phone plus a $100/month 2 GB plan. You start saving money after 5 months. After 14 months, you've saved $370, which is almost enough to buy the next Nexus phone, assuming they keep the pricing the same. If you keep the phone for 24 months, you've saved $770, enough to buy a smartphone off-contract and without Google forgoing the profits. So no, it's nowhere near as expensive as Verizon. Perhaps you want to "look into it" again.
  • THIS and the fact that t-mobile has put a tower in my neighborhood is why I keep thinking that they may be our next carrier. (We've got until October when my wife's iPhone 4s will be off contract. I can get it unlocked and we will put IT on tMo, too)
    I'm thinking of buying an HTC One to put on tMo. I'll sell my Evo 4GLTE and not look back. (That is, unless Sprint gets their act together on network upgrades. Lately, it's just been HORRIBLE to try to use their data here in central NC.)
  • Keep in mind, as the upgrades take place, the network will get worse as users on some towers end up connecting to other towers as their preferred towers are being upgraded. Plus they still have to tweak everything to work in concert with the other towers. In the long run though, it's worth it for those that are already seeing the upgrades.
  • "save for that pink RAZR MAXX HD, perhaps" Now come on Phil, be honest. We all know your sporting the Pink RAZR. :D
  • Man, I haven't seen a Motorola phone in.. a year?
  • I think Motorola makes some of the best phones out there. Had a droid x, incredible to(htc), charge(samsung)(worst phone IMO) and had to came back to motorola. I have a razr and wife has a razr hd. Sister has a S3 and I'll give it to samsung, some of their add on sofware(not touchwiz) is nice to have, but prefer the close to stock feel of motoblur(if its still called blur). Plus build quality is IMO the best on android.
  • I'm really hoping Motorola is coming back with a really great Phone/Tablet
  • In the meantime, while waiting to work through the current pipeline Google can show its committment to making Motorola stand out by pushing out updates (all the way through the carriers to the users) faster than any of the other manufacturers. That would go a long way towards earning them respect in the enthusiast community, and that trickles down to ordinary users.