Motorola SVP: Google gives us no 'special treatment'

CNET spoke with Motorola's senior vice president of product management Rick Osterloh about its strategy and focus.

The Motorola Razr M Android handset is all part of its plan to offer a range of premium products.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

Google may own Motorola, but when it comes to making and selling phones, the Android smartphone manufacturer said that it's on their own.

"We're operating as an independent OEM, so there's a firewall between us and the Android team," Osterloh told CNET, explaining the sometimes-distant relationship between Motorola and its owner.

"It's very important to the company [Google] that Android remain an open playing field."

One might think that with Motorola in the brand umbrella, a Razr phone would be a shoo-in for Google's next flagship Nexus phone, the first handset to demonstrate a "pure" Android experience for a major operating system update.

Motorola has yet to gain this prestigious position, but HTC got it once (Nexus One) and Samsung nabbed it twice (Nexus S, Galaxy Nexus.)

Motorola would certainly love to issue a Razr Nexus phone, or similar, but Osterloh said that his company has to go through the pitching process along with the rest of its usual rivals.

"We will absolutely be one of the people considered the next time Google delivers its Nexus phone ... but we're not going to receive special treatment," Osterloh said.

On the other hand, when asked about the Motoblur interface that rides on top of Android, Osterloh indicated a closer alignment with Google's Android vision down the road. "You'll see us get closer and closer to [stock] Android over time," he said.

Focus, focus, focus

In the meantime, Motorola is sticking by a plan that was outlined in early September, when it introduced a trio of new Motorola Razr phones for Verizon in the US — and mainly, releasing a fewer number of premium smartphones throughout the year.

In addition to creating handsets with eye-catching designs like the edgy Razr family, Motorola said that it's pouring tremendous engineering effort into battery performance and power management, so that phones like its now-legendary Razr Maxx line blow past the competition on a single charge.

Morotola's physical design has also earned time under the microscope. The flashy Kevlar backing has practical application beyond its water-resistant and scratch-deflecting properties.

According to Osterloh, Kevlar can stretch thin, providing a strong housing that doesn't bulk up the phone's thickness. In addition, Osterloh points to Kevlar's RF (radio frequency) permeability, or the capability to easily transmit radio signal.

Poor camera quality compared with competing smartphones is one area of weakness that's plagued Motorola smartphones for some time, and it is, indeed, a common CNET complaint. "It's something that we're focused on," Osterloh acknowledged.

Motorola isn't sharing sales figures right now, nor a phone release road map. The only surety is Motorola's stated attempt to shore up weakness and turn out premium phones, not all of them at premium prices.

"Under Google," said Osterloh cryptically, "it's going to certainly be a different future."


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ChristopherM2 posted a comment   

While I commend Google for their unbiased support of all Android OEMs, I think not pushing your own pawns is a bit of a wasted opportunity. They don't have to take over the design process but should enforce some tougher guidelines such as must be vanilla Android, have latest firmware(I'd love to see OEMs be much more consistent with their updating process, the majority should be able to use Key Lime Pie the very month it's been released but it always a slow process for some).

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