Filed Under:

Despite Layoffs, Google's Motorola Strategy Aims At Innovation

Play associated audio

Google is shaking things up at its new subsidiary Motorola Mobility, announcing Monday that it will lay off 20 percent of the company's global workforce. Its strategy is to create a small division led by a technology star to spur innovation at the company that invented the cellphone.

Layoffs at any company are rough, but Charles Golvin at Forrester Research says it's likely employees at Motorola would prefer what's going on there to what's happening at some of their competitors.

"Google is investing in hardware design and innovation," Golvin says.

Companies like Nokia and RIM, the maker of the BlackBerry, however, are fighting for survival.

Google makes the world's most popular smartphone operating system, Android. And though Motorola Mobility lost a quarter of a billion dollars last quarter, Google is still immensely profitable.

The challenge for Google, as it absorbs Motorola, will be to convince companies like Samsung and HTC that it's still going to treat them fairly when it comes to handing out new versions of Android.

"I'm sure Samsung is worried about that," Golvin says.

He says Google has gone out of its way to reassure phone makers like Samsung that whoever can make the best devices — not "whoever has the best relationship with Google" — will win in the marketplace.

If Motorola can't get a leg up on the competition through software, however, it will have to compete in other ways. And that, say Google insiders, is where Regina Dugan comes in.

Dugan was the first woman to lead the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. At DARPA, she was known for pushing her employees and asking them what they would do if they couldn't fail.

"If you really ask yourself this question, you can't help but feel uncomfortable," Dugan said at a TED conference, "because when you ask this question, you begin to understand how the fear of failure constrains you."

Dugan backed DARPA research into advanced domestic manufacturing techniques, and she challenged scientists to build lithium-ion batteries smaller than grains of sand, earning praise from academics and military brass.

She left DARPA this spring and now heads a small group within Motorola called Advanced Technology and Projects. Those projects just might provide a hint of where Motorala Mobility may be headed.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit

WAMU 88.5

Kate Mulgrew: "Born With Teeth" (Rebroadcast)

Kate Mulgrew, who stars as "Red" in the Netflix TV series "Orange Is The New Black", opens up in a new memoir about her complicated family and the baby she gave away for adoption as a young woman.


Swapping The Street For The Orchard, City Dwellers Take Their Pick Of Fruit

Urban foragers don't just pick their meals from the trash; many eat only the finest, freshest produce — picked from city trees. The League of Urban Canners harvests fruit from trees to make jam.

Reconsidering The Pilgrims, Piety And America's Founding Principles

Conservatives who want to emphasize America's Christian roots embrace the story of the Pilgrims and the Mayflower Compact. But some historians say their role in the country's founding is overstated.

From Takeout To Breakups: Apps Can Deliver Anything, For A Price

Convenience is at an all-time premium — and a lot of smartphone apps promise to make many of the things we do every day easier. In a time-crunch or sheer laziness, how far will the apps take us?

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.