The Motorola batwings are back - but with a new feel and focus as the company prepares to launch its first smartphone developed under Google ownership and open its new headquarters downtown.
This was the message that senior Motorola Mobility executives brought Thursday to startup conference Techweek. The Libertyville, Ill.-based mobile devices maker, which was acquired by Google Inc. last year, is sponsoring the confab and used the occasion to reintroduce itself as a cutting-edge technology company that has exorcised its old demons.
The new Motorola is "not about churning out as many products as we can," Iqbal Arshad, senior vice president of engineering and global product development, said in a keynote address to open Techweek. "It's about taking back the roots of innovation."
Motorola Mobility has a new logo with a thinned-out, lower-case, sans serif font that drops the "Mobility" from the name and adds "a Google company" as a tagline. Beyond the aesthetics, executives told the Techweek crowd that the company is reshaping its culture to make innovative mobile products to appeal to consumers. It is also preparing to move to Chicago next year, starting with about 2,000 employees in the first quarter.
Its new neighborhood is home to many startups, and "Motorola believes being in Chicago ... will make us a much more successful company," said Jim Wicks, senior vice president of consumer experience design.
Motorola plans to launch this summer its first "hero" phone, or flagship device, the Moto X. The phone will be made in Texas, a geographic proximity that will help with prototyping, rapid design changes and quality control, Arshad said in an interview on the sidelines of Techweek.
"We have a much larger vision about where we want to go," Arshad said. "Bringing back manufacturing to the U.S. is part of that broad strategy."
The Moto X will incorporate some of Motorola's longer-term vision around making mobile devices into smart computing gadgets that have cognitive ability, moving beyond being big calculators.
The way consumers use their mobile devices is also changing, Wicks said. Wicks, in his keynote, said consumers will no longer "be hunched over these devices." Rather, their eyes will be up and they might be speaking to their gadgets rather than using their fingers on a touch screen. Wearable devices - such as Google's Glass eyewear - will also proliferate.
Motorola has a challenging road ahead, as it's ceded much of its market share in mobile devices to Apple and Samsung. Still, the company is betting that its backing from Google will put it back in play.
"Today, Motorola feels like a startup," Arshad said in his keynote, adding: "It's great to be back. We're truly inspired."
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