RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. -- Google's $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility has not been the search giant's finest hour, at least so far. Motorola lost $271 million for Google in the first quarter of 2013, and it's unclear at this point what the plan is to reinvent the division. And, some Android phone makers aren't totally believing that Motorola won't have some kind of unfair advantage as part of Google. In addition, the European Commission has been looking into how Motorola Mobility might be using its market position to seek and enforce a patent-related injunction against Apple.
Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside attempted to address concerns in an interview Wednesday and let the world know that the company will be launching the rumored Moto X smartphone sometime between now and October. In fact, the entire product line of Motorola smartphones will be revamped, Woodside said during an the D: All Things Digital conference here. "We'll launch a handful of smartphones that aren't the end, but show where the company is heading," he said.
Woodside wouldn't show the Moto X, which he said was in his pocket, but said it was contextually aware of what's going on around it. It can fire up the camera when he takes it out his pocket (he didn't explain how), and it will act differently if you are driving 60 miles an hour in a car.
A phone that persistently understands changes has an impact on battery life. "Motorola has come up with two processors that allow you to do those things" that won't destroy battery life, Woodside said.
"The ability to engage with the phone is different than competitors," he said. The Moto X will be manufactured in the U.S., in a plant outside of Fort Worth, Texas, and employ 2,000 people, Woodside said. He added that carriers are excited about where Motorola is heading.
Woodside addressed how much Google is involved in Motorola's business. He said it is supported by parts of Google, such as finance and legal, but Android is completely independent and Motorola is managed like any other partner. "We are treated as a separate company," he said.
That said, Motorola is doing a deep mind-meld with Google and going for more moonshots, attempting to bring back what Woodside called the "audaciousness and confidence" of the old Motorola, which pioneered the cell phone industry and took its own moonshots, like the failed Iridium satellite project.
"I sat down with (Google CEO) Larry Page about what we are going to do. We will take it back to the roots of innovation and build devices that have the potential to change people's lives," Woodside said.
Regina Dugan, head of Motorola Advanced Technology & Projects and the former director of DARPA, exhibited some of the projects the company is working on. She showed a wearable, electronic tattoo that could be used for user authentication, as well as a pill with a small chip inside and a battery, from a company called Proteus, that creates a signal in the body and the entire body becomes an authentication token. "That becomes my first superpower," Dugan said. "We aren't shipping this right way.
"Having the boldness to think differently about problems people have every day is a new mindset," Woodside said. He believes that Motorola is now an underdog, despite having Google's money and DNA added to its historic roots, and some of the best and brightest engineers from Google, Apple, and Samsung joining the ranks.
"If you think back to transformative changes in the industry, it's almost never led by a big, incumbent company," Woodside said, noting how Android started as a small company and is now on almost a billion phones. "You don't need to be the biggest guy."
Clearly Apple and Samsung are the dominant smartphone players, but an underdog powered by Google, even at a distance, is a very big dog in the hunt.