With Cuts, Motorola Mobility Regroups for Innovation

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    With the layoff of 4,000 people worldwide announced Monday, Motorola Mobility might have raised more questions about its future than it answered.

    In addition to cutting 20 percent of Motorola’s work force, Google fired 40 percent of Motorola’s vice presidents and installed a management team led by Google advertising executive Dennis Woodside as CEO.

    Motorola Mobility recently signed a 15-year lease and announced plans to move its entire Libertyville, Ill., work force to downtown Chicago — an announcement much heralded by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel as another example that the Windy City is becoming a tech hub. Google seemed to be demonstrating that the acquisition was about more than the patents to defend Android. But maybe not, Computerworld says.

    Yet it seems clear that Google does want to get into the hardware business, but wants to focus on a “smarter” strategy of producing just a few key smartphones, though a good number of its employees are working on lower-end feature phones. Analysts say its biggest challenge will be allaying the fears of its hardware partners.

    Meanwhile, it’s pinning its future on a new Advanced Technology and Projects unit led by Regina Dugan, a former director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Pentagon’s research arm, according to Technology Review. It says the company wants to build phones with longer battery life, improved cameras and features such as voice recognition technology that can recognize people chatting in a room. It reports Dugan is hiring metal scientists, acoustics engineers and artificial intelligence experts.

    Only about a third of the layoffs are expected to be in the United States, with 750 from the Libertyville headquarters, meaning only 2,250 employees will be moving to downtown Chicago. The Sun-Times makes much of the difference, calling Mayor Rahm Emanuel out for a “public relations game that pretends jobs only are only flowing into Chicago and not out.”

    But with its Illinois work force falling below 2,500, Motorola loses eligibility for $100 million in state tax credits that were contingent on that level of employment.

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