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Surprised? Google-rola Mobility Cuts 20% of Workforce




It should come as a surprise to no one that Google is starting to remake Motorola Mobility into something a little leaner and possibly a little meaner.

Since the acquisition was finalized in May of this year there has been a ton of speculation as to what exactly Google will do to take the ailing mobile manufacturer out of its current state and into the future. The first step is the unfortunate elimination of about 4,000 jobs which is 20% of the workforce.

The New York Times reports

The cuts are the first step in Google’s plan to reinvent Motorola, which has fallen far behind its biggest competitors, Apple and Samsung, and to shore up its Android mobile business and expand beyond search and software into the manufacture of hardware.

The turnaround effort will also be a referendum on the management of Larry Page, Google’s chief executive, whose boldest move has been the $12.5 billion acquisition.

Though Google bought Motorola partly because of its more than 17,000 patents, which can help defend against challenges to the Android operating system, it also planned to use Motorola to make its own, better smartphones and tablets.

While I hate to see this kind of thing considering the human cost, it was bound to happen. When a company spends $12.5 billion to acquire anything, it will have a mission to make that entity work. Right now, Motorola Mobility is certainly broken as it is getting killed by Apple, Samsung and others. As a frustrated DroidX owner (yeah it’s old but I am changing soon but not to a another Motorola product that’s for sure) I can see that there is work to be done.

So what will Google do as it cuts people as well as 1/3 of the 94 worldwide offices the company has? Good question. Here’s some corporate speak to give an idea.

“We’re excited about the smartphone business,” said [Motorola’s new chief executive Dennis] Woodside, who previously led Google’s sales and operations for the Americas. “The Google business is built on a wired model, and as the world moves to a pretty much completely wireless model over time, it’s really going to be important for Google to understand everything about the mobile consumer.”

What is even more telling is that these cuts were not just aimed at the rank and file employees. In fact, it looks like Google is placing the blame on Motorola’s slide at the top.

In addition to the coming cuts, Google has gutted Motorola management, letting go 40 percent of its vice presidents. It also hired new senior executives. It will shrink operations in Asia and India, and center research and development in Chicago, Sunnyvale and Beijing.

It looks like the new CEO is also following a trend made popular by his new owner which is to streamline operations and get more focused on a few things rather than everything.

Mr. Woodside also plans to cut the number of devices Motorola makes from the 27 it introduced last year to just a few. He wants to make the company’s products cool again by loading them with things like sensors that recognize who is in a room based on their voices, cameras that take crisper photos and batteries that last for days.

That’s nice to say but it’s also ‘future-speak’. For instance, I will not wait around for the new ‘cool’ stuff promised by Woodside because I need a new phone now and I don’t see a reason to get another Motorola device considering my current level of discontent with my phone right now. If I were to stay an Android user the Samsung Galaxy Nexus or the Galaxy S III look a lot more attractive today.

This is going to be a long and difficult road to make Motorola cool again. I’m not saying it can’t be done. If nothing else Google has deep enough pockets to ride this out and accomplish its goal if money is the answer. Trouble is, it may be about more than money and then we all need to wonder whether this move will ultimately make Larry Page look like a genius or something much less nice and attractive sounding.

What’s your take?