When Google acquired Motorola two years ago, the tech world waited and watched to see how the search engine giant would leverage the handset maker's assets. Google CEO Larry Page said the company would "supercharge the Android ecosystem."
Since then, Motorola has launched a few smartphones but so far has not lived up to Page's acquisition hype. That may change, though, with the Moto X. Google officially debuted the Moto X at an event in New York on Thursday and the reviews are largely positive.
"The future of manufacturing is going to be standard platforms with high customization around them. Common components and then customized wrappings, if you will," Google Chairman Eric Schmidt told USA Today. "The reason is that consumers are pretty sophisticated and want their own thing but you can't build a phone for each and every person that's different."
2,000 Configurations Possible
With Moto X, Google is promising to give people choices -- choices to design their own phones; choices to control their phones by voice when their hands are occupied; and choices to have their phones assembled in America. And they can choose from more than 2,000 configurations.
"With the best of Google services baked in, Moto X helps you get everyday tasks done quickly and with less fuss. But it's also designed to sip battery, not chug it, so it will go all day and into the night," the company said in its official announcement. "Moto X is ready when you are. It responds to your voice -- no touching necessary. With Touchless Control you can check the weather, get directions, or do just about anything without lifting a finger. Moto X doesn't guess like other phones do. It knows."
Another Moto X feature, Active Display, keeps information consumers deem most important where it's easily accessible. Instead of a constantly blinking light, for example, important information quietly appears on the screen. Motorola said consumers don't have to wake the phone up to look at the time or see messages.
The Enterprise Advantage
We caught up with Michael Disabato, managing vice president of Network and Telecom at Gartner, to get an enterprise analyst's perspective on the Moto X. He told us he's keeping his eye on a potential benefit for corporate users.
"There's the Android fragmentation that occurs when Samsung, HTC and the rest take the operating system and do their thing with it. Then there are the network operators that hold on to updates until they get a chance to play with them," Disabato said. "That may not happen with Motorola. Long-term, I'm thinking Google is going to give Motorola the updates with instructions to roll them out right away, bypassing the MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators)."
If Google takes this approach, Motorola devices would have a significant security edge over the devices of other handset makers. As he sees it, there's a two-fold issue with Android for enterprise IT: the multitude of app stores that are not curated and the fact that the security patches sometimes take a year to roll out.
"I think Google will leave Motorola alone to do its designs and marketing but they will give them instructions on how to handle the operating system," Disabato said. "Google is going to expect the patches out fast. That would give Motorola handsets an advantage in the enterprise because their security features would be more up to date unless Samsung disintermediates the operators as well."
Moto X will be available in the United States, Canada and Latin America starting in late August and early September. AT&T, Sprint, US Cellular, Verizon Wireless, and national retailers including Best Buy stores will offer the device for $199. T-Mobile and Motorola will also offer the Moto X.