Report: Motorola wanted to make a true Google phone, but Larry Page didn’t want it

by: Bogdan PetrovanMarch 14, 2014

Larry Page

Motorola’s executives repeatedly asked for more support from Google, in form of technology and marketing funds, but Larry Page ultimately turned them down.

That’s the gist of a new report by The Information’s (paywalled) Amir Efrati (formerly with WSJ), via Business Insider. Efrati’s story explains why Motorola failed to produce the truly Googley phone that we’ve all been waiting for. The Moto X was a very polished device and had some interesting features, but in the end, it wasn’t special and impressive, in the way many of Google’s projects are. But it wasn’t for lack of wanting on Motorola’s part.

According to Efrati, Moto’s people had a grand vision for a smartphone that would marry great hardware with Google’s cloud expertise and unmatched computing resources. One example that he offers is natural language processing – Motorola wanted to take voice commands to the next level, and enable its devices to understand complex queries, not just simple, scripted commands like “Okay, Google”.

[quote qtext=”Motorola wanted to work more closely with the Google team that develops natural language processing technologies, which help computers understand naturally-spoken phrases rather than a limited set of commands. Deeply integrating such technology with Motorola hardware could enable people to use a much wider array of voice commands and speed up the time it took for the smartphone to respond to commands. ” qperson=”” qsource=”” qposition=”center”]

Needless to say, even small achievements in this area would have made Motorola’s phones stand out in the crowd. But Larry Page was reluctant to give Motorola access to Google’s resources, out of a fear of alienating Android partners, like Samsung or HTC. So Page reportedly forbade any collaboration between Motorola and the Android division, though he did allow Motorola to collaborate with other groups, including YouTube. That didn’t help much in the end, as people at YouTube and other product groups snubbed Motorola because the company “lacked scale.” Moreover, Google did not provide Motorola with the marketing funds it wanted, that would have allowed it to better compete with the 800-pound gorilla that is Samsung.

This report reinforces the theory that Google never seriously wanted to make Motorola its hardware arm. The $12.5 billion acquisition was more about patents than anything else, and the sale to Lenovo wasn’t the sudden change of heart (or admission of failure) that some portrayed it to be.

  • Shark Bait

    I think that’s wise. Google make more money of the likes of Samsung and LG than they ever would have made out of moto

    • Bobby Wright

      If Samsung wanted to jump ship and only support Tizen, they would fall hard because Google wouldn’t allow access to the Google play store and no support for its core apps. Tizen has NO ecosystem. Samsung would have no choice but to stick around and play nice with a Google owned Moto.
      I think that with the quality of motorola phones and the
      backing/money/power of Google, they could have pulled it off. It would
      be a slow climb but Moto had a sleeper on its hands with the Moto X.

      • Nathan Borup

        Before the moto x motorola sucked… I had a OG Razr Maxx and it sucked, even when it was first released… but the moto x even months after it was released is still holding strong. Glad I sold my gs3 to get it

      • Ahmet C.

        It is ridiculously easy to port Android apps to Tizen. In fact there is a program for that that does it automatically. Tizen will fail not because of apps but because of Samsung. Samsung is not a software company. They are terrible at designing software.

        • Bobby Wright

          Regular apps? sure, what about app updates? what about support for those apps from the app maker? what if the port sucks, doesn’t run correctly? but that’s not really what im talking about. Samsung built its empire by selling cheap “dumb” phones (on top of the many other electronics they sell). They built a “smartphone” empire using Google/Android. Imagine now if Samsung switched gears and began marketing its Galaxy devices, but now they run Tizen OS. Yeah they can port over some apps for their devices, but what about core apps from Google? Now they would be selling a device that has no access to the hundreds of thousands apps that the play store has, no support for any core apps (gmail, youtube, drive etc) because let face it, Google won’t support another mobile OS except for iOS (user base). Just look at WP8, Google wouldn’t spit on them if they were on fire. I don’t see Google lending ANY supporting Tizen because that would be a very bad move on their part. The size of Samsung, using a competing OS would really hurt Android. BUT, take away any access to the play store and kill any support for core Google apps on Tizen and what do you have? A dead OS, even before they have a chance. Google had all the leverage to keep Motorola, and they should have. Sorry for the long reply.

  • Bobby Wright

    “Motorola wanted to make a true Google phone, but Larry Page didn’t want it”
    Wow, that sucks…

    • MasterMuffin


  • Sandro

    I own a Moto X and I can say IT IS special and impressive!

    • Shubham Singh

      Exactly Moto x is a special device it offered “android experience ” that most flagships were not able to provide.

      • Guest123

        just imagine how much better it could have been. . .

        • Shubham Singh

          Exactly Buddy but still the way Motorola has been going i have high hopes for them i am pretty sure Lenovo will even want to support the motion.

      • geospa300

        Then why didn’t anyone buy it?

        • Shubham Singh

          Really :) moto x sell pretty well and moto g is selling like hot cackes (when x was limited to us and g also g has limited to few countries )becuase of the fact the motorola is a huge unit and they will require more then few phone that are front runner

          • geospa300

            500,000 phones in the third quarter is a pathetic sales figure and the moto g is a cheap piece of crap.

          • Buddy

            Go to hell

        • T.J.

          I don’t think it sold as well as they hoped because of their lack of marketing. I bought one, however, and I love it!

  • Emexci Life

    im using android phones since it is released. maybe before you heard about it. but please tell me if moto x is not a special and impressive device, then which one it is ?

    • I meant special and impressive in the way it could have been if Google was on board 100 percent.

      • Emexci Life

        I misunderstood then. Sorry for my harsh comment.

  • wezi427

    What a shame, I’ve always been a big Motorola supporter. Google took a very good company and stripped it of what it was worth and tossed it away. I always liked that Motorola was an American company, but now it’s just a name.

  • donotech

    That’s too bad. I bought the RAZR MAXX a little over 2 years ago and was roundly impressed by it. I appreciate their approach to Android much more than I do Samsung, which feels heavy handed. Plus it is a solid piece of hardware with great battery life to this day. This could have been a great partnership. I was looking forward to great things when Google bought them.

  • Cas

    It’s Larry Page loss. If he didn’t want to do it, someone else will

    • acashe42

      “Someone else will”. Not possible if that someone doesn’t have google full access to google’s tech.

  • acashe42

    IMO the Moto X has a better upside than the Nexus 5. The amount of potential the next Moto X could’ve reached, with google’s backing, would’ve overtaken the Nexus lineup easily.

  • Shubham Singh

    I found it very annoying and unreliable when a new device arrives reviews would say ok this device is good everything is nice in it and when its successor or any other better phone arrives they will say it had a bad camera and battery why don’t they report it when they review a phone.

  • guy with guts

    I seriously wanted motorola to stay with google and keep releasing awesome products like moto x and moto g. Got two moto Gs for my mom and dad. This phone is really awesome. I am a samsung fan but this phone made me a motorola fan too, i had their old dumb phones, all were great hardware.

  • Nvrhde

    Outside geek community not much people Cared about Moto x
    Of course it’s great phone

  • Elron

    “…Larry Page was reluctant to give Motorola access to Google’s resources, out of a fear of alienating Android partners, like Samsung or HTC.”
    So instead of taking Android to another level with new features and seeking new improvements over the system, Google (Page) prefered not to do it to keep Samsung and HTC (with their shitty Touchwiz and Sense interfaces) thinking they’re not being left behind.
    In my opinion that was the most stupid and ridiculous move towards Android Google could have made…why not try to develop new features and use them in the Nexus phones, regardless of Galaxys or Ones being the top sellers? A real Nexus from Moto would probably have been an amazing phone, more than Moto X is, and with these new features, it could easily give Google the “innovative characteristic” that is the face of Apple. Not to mention the price Google sells these smartphones, which, packed with new amazing features, would be an even better rival to the iPhone. I really don’t understand why Google must depend so much on Samsung and it’s lame Touchwiz, when they have their Nexus line with pure stock iteration of Android to do whatever they want to.

  • Rooney-

    Hmmm.. Now being a google supporter i must say “Google sucks”!

  • Jose Torres

    If only…

  • Michael Samsara

    The most frustrating experience one can have – is to have vision and, as was the case here, a workable, exciting and potentially game changing dream – but be limited by and working under the thumb of those whose monetary and personal agendas predispose them to not caring about your success (as an individual or in this case a company) – but simply serving their own purposes.

    Not that Google didn’t have the perfect right to do what it did – but it doesn’t make it any less disappointing that they had a “failure of nerve” and allowed themselves to be whipped by their fear of “alienating their partners”, who though not as bad as Apple – nevertheless – don’t like serious competition either if they can avoid it – or have it killed for them without having to lift a finger; as was the case here.