Ina Fried

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Motorola Chief Dennis Woodside on Intel, Quicker Android Upgrades and More

Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside is hoping that lots of people buy the Moto X. But he also hopes that the product sends a strong signal of where the Google-owned company is going.

MotoX 7

“We spent the last year retooling the company … to put it in a position to build Moto X,” Woodside told AllThingsD last week. “It’s not just the first device we’ve built. It shows the direction we want to take the company.”

The company has had a turbulent few months since Google acquired control. It has exited the cable set-top box business, dramatically narrowed its mobile product line and slashed thousands of jobs.

“It’s not the end, but it’s really the beginning of what we believe is a new approach to hardware at Motorola,” Woodside said. “In the mobile world, it’s incredibly important to have great hardware that complements great services, and we think Motorola is going to be able to deliver that.”

Woodside likens his task to something akin to what another part of the company is doing for transportation — shifting the work load from the operator to the device itself.

“Google built the first self-driving car,” Woodside said. “We wanted to build the first self-driving phone, so to speak.”

One piece of the effort is the custom silicon that Motorola includes as part of its X8 processing engine alongside the Qualcomm processor and graphics chip.

While people often focus on the main processor in a device, Woodside said it is the system as a whole that people should be paying attention to — the combination of processor, companion chips and software that allows the latest Motorola phones to always be listening for voice input without sacrificing battery life.

So, could Motorola’s future include non-Qualcomm chips? After all, the company did sign a long-term pact with Intel prior to the Google deal. Thus far, only one phone has come from that — the Razr I that was sold in Europe.

“I think Intel is an incredible company,” Woodside said. “We continue to look for ways to work with them.”

One area that surprised some was the fact that the Moto X isn’t running the latest version of Android — version 4.3, which Google introduced last month. But Woodside said that the company literally couldn’t, having only seen the code itself after the software was introduced alongside the new Nexus 7.

But, while Motorola won’t have advanced access to new Android code, the company does hope to have devices that can quickly be upgraded. In part, that stems from not making a lot of changes to the underlying operating system so that updates can easily be readied and then tested by cellular carriers.

Woodside noted that 85 percent of devices released in the last two years have been upgraded to the latest version of Android.

“We are absolutely making it a priority,” he said.

Motorola also hopes to take a different approach to marketing. Woodside noted that was evident with the launch, which featured small groups of reporters getting to see the product hands-on and ask questions, rather than a big stage show.

“It’s not going to be the same approach that other companies might take,” Woodside said. “We are going to take some risks along the way.”

Woodside wouldn’t confirm reports that Motorola would spend hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing the phone, but did say that the company would make itself heard.

“We’re not going to hide under a bushel,” he said. “We have plenty of money to do the job.”


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— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle