Report: Google thwarted Motorola's attempts to build the ultimate Google phone

moto x touchless controls
Mike Homnick

Google can be one confusing beast of a company at times, what with its wide assortment of projects. Self-driving cars? Google Glass? Android? Robots? To think that it all started with a search engine. But then there’s the curious case of Google’s purchase—then sale—of Motorola.

In a story published by The Information (it’s behind a paywall), Amir Efrati describes the troubled relationship between Google and its Motorola subsidiary. According to Efrati, Google executives repeatedly rebuffed Motorola’s attempts to build a phone that integrated tightly with Google’s other services.

For example, according to the report, Motorola wanted to work with Google’s natural language processing group to improve voice-command recognition in the Moto X smartphone. But such a partnership never happened, and while the Moto X’s hands-free “Touchless Control” voice command feature is useful, it clearly isn’t as powerful as what Motorola had hoped to build.

Motorola also approached Google’s YouTube and Google+ teams to build tight integration with those services into the Moto X, again to no avail.

Google CEO Larry Page also did little to help Motorola do battle against Samsung. Executives reportedly told Page that Google needed to make a concerted marketing push in support of the Moto X:

“Executives kept telling Mr. Page that without a gargantuan marketing budget to compete with Samsung—now one of the biggest advertisers in the world—or deeper integration with Google, Motorola’s progress would be limited.”

Yeah, that never happened, either.

Granted, the Moto X that we got was pretty dang good in its own right, but clearly it needed to be more than just “pretty dang good” to loosen Samsung’s stranglehold on the Android market, or to pry away some users from Apple’s iPhone.

It was “a match made in purgatory,” Efrati’s report concludes. Ultimately, Google sold Motorola for $2.9 billion—a small fraction of the $12.5 billion it spent on the company back in 2011. If you have a subscription to The Information, Efrati’s piece is well worth the read.

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