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Motorola President Promises More Wearables and Low-Cost Phones

Same as it ever was.

Asa Mathat

The business plan for Motorola under Lenovo is simple: More of the same.

The company has engineered a pretty remarkable turnaround over the last couple of years, focusing on just a handful of phone models mostly aimed at the low end of the market. Just this week it introduced a second-generation Moto E that offers a decent set of features for under $150.

And being bought hasn’t changed the outlook for Motorola, said President Rick Osterloh.

Motorola, he said, isn’t really looking too far afield for future products, focusing most of its experimentation around things for the wrist, things for the ear and software features it can bring to its phones. Tablets and other devices, he said, are probably best left to other parts of Lenovo.

“We’re definitely not interested in going in a million different directions,” Osterloh said in an interview at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

As for wearables, Osterloh said that the company does have models planned beyond last year’s Moto 360 watch.

“We’ll be launching more products in the later part of the year,” he said. One thing Osterloh has no plans to do is create its own watch software.

“We just think that’s a terrible idea,” he said.

Both Samsung and LG have created Android Wear-based wrist-wear but also made models using their own operating systems — in part because Google has maintained tight control over the software that gets loaded onto the watch.

Osterloh said Google is helping build critical mass, which will spur developers and ultimately create an ecosystem that can scale.

“We’re pretty happy with Android wear, and that is what we are going to stay with,” Osterloh said.

As for phones, the company doesn’t plan to increase its lineup significantly, but Osterloh said there could be room for a product between the Moto G and Moto X.

Osterloh said that being part of Lenovo is helping reduce component costs “significantly,” though he didn’t offer details, and reiterated that while Motorola is not yet profitable, the plan is to become so within the next four to six quarters.

That’s key because Motorola is far from alone in centering its attention on this part of the market. China’s Xiaomi is also focused there, with nearly every phone maker introducing models in the $100 to $200 price range.

Motorola also continues to do all its own engineering, and Osterloh said not to expect any of the broader companies to be sold under the Motorola brand. Doing so would hurt customer trust, he said.

“The brand is tied to the product strategy,” Osterloh said. “I think that’s just crucial.”

Here’s what Osterloh had to say about Motorola’s strategy back at last fall’s Code/Mobile conference.

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