Motorola is Going the Nokia Way and it’s Sad to Watch


Picture this: Motorola had over 20,000 workers when Google acquired it in 2012. By the time Google was selling off the company to Chinese device maker Lenovo two years later, the number of employees had dropped to a mere 3,500. Since taking over, Lenovo has trimmed Motorola’s workforce to a paltry 1,200 as it merged most of the company’s operations with those of its existing mobile division.

And now, DroidLife reports, Motorola’s employee base is shrinking even further.

While an official statement from Lenovo refuses to state the exact number of members of the Motorola team that are facing the axe, it does deny that that is actually happening. It confirms that its latest downsizing affects “just” 2% of its 55,000 strong global workforce. That may not be a small number by Lenovo standards but it definitely is when considering the last quoted figure of Motorola’s employee count, just over 1,000 people.

If the sad story of Motorola sounds familiar then it is because it actually is. Another company and brand we’ve known for its innovations and sleek devices, Nokia, went through a similar phase recently and it is only now that it is trying to bounce back albeit under a totally different arrangement.

Like Nokia, Motorola, once a towering figure in the mobile industry, failed to take off in the era of the smartphone thanks in part to scaling down its operations outside of the United States and focusing on just a handful of markets. All the Droid-branded smartphones that Android fans around the world would salivate at were all locked to US carrier Verizon’s network as the iPhone alternative.

When Google bought Motorola Mobility 4 years ago, there was some hope that with the search giant’s deep pockets, Motorola phones may begin showing up in more markets. And they did. Only that, as before, there were limitations and Google was mostly interested in the company’s patents and couldn’t entertain its loss-making quarter after quarter.

Thanks to Google, we got to see excellent devices like the second generation Moto X (the first one was overpriced thanks to being “Made in the USA”). We even got to see the Nexus 6 that Eric still rates highly than his Methuselah-ic BlackBerry.

Latin America and India were some of the markets lucky enough to get some renewed focus from Google’s Motorola. The company even introduced budget smartphones like the Moto G and the Moto E that we all agreed were the industry benchmark. Then Lenovo happened. And, like the Microsoft acquisition of Nokia, it’s been downhill ever since for the once-great phone brand.

A lot of the turbulence facing Motorola and its mother company Lenovo is not new to the extremely volatile global smartphone market (you only need to see HTC’s struggles over the last few years to understand why) but it’s still sad to see the people that made it great let go and the brand become nothing but a mere front for devices lacking the fine Motorola touch that consumers around the world once bragged openly about.

Here’s a memorable quote from when Google sold off whatever remained of Motorola Mobility to Lenovo:

Lenovo has the expertise and track record to scale Motorola into a major player within the Android ecosystem. They have a lot of experience in hardware, and they have global reach.

That is all true and may be we have to let go of the old Motorola and fully embrace the Chinese and their ways if we’re to see anything interesting come off what remains of a brand we once loved (we still do even after it released those atrocious “forward-looking” headphone jack-less Motos).

So long Motorola!