Motorola's split from Google and absorption by Lenovo left many people wondering if one of the world's most interesting phone makers would get mismanaged into oblivion. Motorola President Rick Osterloh sought to clear the air with a candid chat session at Mobile World Congress, where the answer was a pretty emphatic "no."
"We've done an enormous amount of great stuff as part of a broader company," he said.
Aside from shipping devices like the Moto X Pure Edition and the Droid Turbo 2, Motorola has worked to unite product design and development teams under a single banner to make engineering processes smoother. The work is getting ready to really pay off, too -- Motorola CMO Adrienne Hayes said the convergence of Motorola and Lenovo's product lineups will happen this summer. Of course, the mashing up of two companies with similar ambitions can be tricky. Plenty of thought has gone into how branding for future devices will work, and the Motorola name will all but disappear from boxes. Pretty soon, the only telltale signs will be the "Moto moniker" and the classic "batwing" logo on phones.
Also, remember those reports that Motorola was going to discontinue the Moto G and Moto E? Those were just the result of lazy journalism. Osterloh confirmed today -- just as the company did shortly after those reports started making the rounds -- that the Moto G and Moto E would be around for "the foreseeable future" and in "similar markets" to the ones they're available in now. That might seem a little tricky considering Lenovo has low-cost Vibe phones that could theoretically eat into mid and low-end Moto sales outside the U.S., but Osterloh isn't fussed.
"Gap and Banana Republic have overlapping prices, too," he noted. Vibe devices -- which have never really had a style of their own -- are due to get a Motorola design overhaul to turn them into phones with more of an identity.
Still, it's not clear to what extent Motorola is helping Lenovo financially. None of us could get Osterloh to break out sales numbers, so we really can't tell if Lenovo's recent profitability was because of Motorola's contributions or in spite of them. (We're guessing the former to some extent, but man, selling phones is a rough game.)
Motorola is very firmly a mobile business, but it has also had to redefine what that means a few times over the years. Despite its mostly clear focus on phones, the company was an early developer of Android tablets -- remember the Xoom and the Xyboard? Osterloh emphatically pointed out that those days (back when the company was run by Sanjay Jha) are over, and that you won't see a Motorola tablet anytime soon. After all, there are business units inside the Lenovo mothership that are pretty damned good at making tablets already.
Motorola also dabbled in making its own smartphone accessories for a while, like the surprisingly ambitious Hint Bluetooth headset. Many of us were fond of the tiny earpiece, but Motorola's not looking to do more of them -- Osterloh called the Hint an "awesome product" but admitted it was "hard to make it a huge success."
We've seen a few mobile companies devote resources to the growing VR space over the past year, too. With VR growing in popularity and prominence, is Motorola doing to craft a mobile VR system? For now, no. Osterloh pointed at teams inside Lenovo that are already devoted to VR -- you know, the ones working with Google on that sweet, sweet Project Tango phone that'll hopefully make an appearance here.