In what can only be described as a truly "WTF" moment, an inside source has informed Information Week that Motorola is in the process of developing its own web-based mobile OS. The question everyone is undoubtedly wants to ask is "why?"

The insider cites Motorola's frustration with Google's support of manufacturers, Android's fragmentation problems, and the difficulty of product differentiation in an Android-saturated smartphone market. These things together, says the tipster, have led Moto to believe Google is "shooting itself in the foot." The source of this rumor cites the fact that Motorola has quietly been picking up numerous former Apple and Adobe employees to work on the project over the past few months.

So, what is Motorola thinking? Have they completely lost their minds? It's sometimes easy to forget that handset manufacturers and Android share a rather young and restless love - the G1 was released two-and-a-half years ago, and the original DROID more than a year after that. By contrast, Motorola has been in the cell phone business nearly 30 years - and such longevity is often associated with a (sometimes unnecessarily) cautious approach.

Motorola certainly hasn't suffered for its relationship with Android, on the contrary - Android was Motorola's life-raft in an RIM and Apple-infested Smartphone Sea. Still, the seemingly BFFs have been acquainted less than two years, and there's nothing to say that the mutual benefits of that relationship couldn't start losing their appeal. Motorola has an interest in making its products stand out from the crowd, and Google in ensuring it doesn't look like it's playing favorites with some major manufacturers at the expense of others.

There's no denying that such factors necessarily create some friction, and if Motorola decides it's getting rubbed the wrong way, a decision to start putting a few eggs in a "plan B" basket might not be so hard to understand. Still, a Motorola OS? I'd probably take the blur-iest MOTOBLUR available over something Moto has cooked up in its own kitchen.

Information Week via Droid-Life

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Nathaniel

    Hellz NO. Not going near any locked down, cluttered-up POS that Moto thinks up. They do enough damage to Android with blur.

  • Asphyx

    This is VERY typical of Motorola.
    They pretty much knocked themselves out of the phone market with their Motorola Q and insistence on proprietary Phone OS' and then when they jumped on the Android bandwagon they managed to get back into the game.

    Now they are going to abandon the thing that got them back in and go their own way?

    No wonder they have been fighting to stay out of bankruptcy all these years.

    if anyone knows how to shoot oneself in the foot effectively it is Motorola.
    They seem poised to do it again if they abandon Android!

  • http://www.droidninja.com Neil Lund

    We have already seen what Moto has done with MotoBlur™. I have no doubt they will fail at trying to compete with android. It would be fun if they tried though. Imagine the bad press lol

  • tamoghno

    First thing came to mind was nokia executive's quote : using android is like peeing in the pant.

    From handset makers's perspective they do have a valid point. Product differentiation is hard in android but its vital in this competitive market. Maybe motorola is developing for lower end handsets

    • http://www.toysdiva.com PixelSlave

      Look, it's not hard. Just follow this list:

      Stock Android OS
      Unlockable bootloader
      Dual core CPU
      qHD display
      HD video capture
      HDMI out
      USB in/out
      4G support
      1GB of RAM
      Wifi tethering
      Respectable battery life
      Guarantee OS update for the first 2
      years after the launch of the phone

      That's basically the dream phone of any Android fans can think up of at this moment. But no handset makers dare to make one. None of the requirements above pose any technical challenege, and I don't think the end product will be any more expensive than an Atrix, which carries an inflated cost for the overpriced laptop dock that few users will purchase.

      I am sure there must be some Android Entrepreneur willing to take up the challenge. Please, let us have a dream Android phone!

      • Duffin

        THis made me remember a crazy idea I came up with a year or so ago. I doubt it would be viable, but wouldn't it be awesome if a company offered build-your-own phones like they have with regular computers? You could choose how much RAM you wanted, the type processor, type of camera, the OS, and a whole bunch of other things to make your dream phone.

        Obviously, cell phones don't work that way and they'd probably end up costing a couple thousand dollars a piece, but it would still be awesome.

    • http://dangerismymiddlename.com Paul Danger Kile

      @Pixelsave +1 100% etc. Etc. Etc.

      Differentiation is really easy: be the first to listen. Nobody appreciates your wasted effort to "differentiate" by bloating things up. The only thing that Google ever did fragmentation-wise was make their new gapps 2.2 and up only. Every other aspect of perceived fragmentation has either been bloat or Uncle Steve's FUD.

      • http://@_eliasalberto Elias

        Nobody appreciates your wasted effort to “differentiate” by bloating things up.

        Enough said. If no one appreciates a bloated launcher, what about a bloated OS which nobody else uses?

        The magic of Android is knowing you'll be free to do anything you want and you'll have tons of apps for it exactly because everyone else uses it, so developers need to target this audience. Having your own OS means less apps, so this is obviously BAD.

        My wild guess is: Motorola will never abandond Android. They might try something else, but they will do different phone models for different OSes. And they are more likely to try WP7 than to develop their own OS, since it would be costly as hell and would very likely end up as a total failure. EVERY proprietary OS (except for iOS (until now)) has failed - and the only reason iOS hasn't been abandoned yet is because it's already widespread and, of course, because of jailbreaking. Steve Jobs should be imensely grateful to Cydia and all hackers targeting iOS.

    • Asphyx

      It's easy to differentiate if they would just stop putting out phones with the same hardware specs as everyone else.

      I mean differentiation has never been a problem for the PC market. How has it been done there?

      Largely on the support model and feature sets of specific market levels. Some computers have High end Video, other have high Ram and storage.

      Software is a not good way to differentiate yourself. Software is constantly changing and evolving. If Moto really wanted to differentiate they would create a unit that is over spec compared to their competitors and offer constant software updates until such time as that unit was not capable of supporting new software!

  • http://www.slipshft.com Slipshft

    Funny, people said that the Google phone OS would never take off, but here we are. You never know, they could come up with a winner for an OS. Of course, I seriously doubt it, but you never know. Since there are so many patents flying around about how you do anything via an interface, they would have to pay for all that too...

  • Dan

    Another reason Why I am refusing to by a xoom despite my deep love of honeycomb

  • Alexey

    Do you know what would be differentiation? Listening to users instead of taking retarded decisions...

  • zeorai

    Moto could produce a good OS, but the challenges are many, but it's certainly not impossible. The real question is whether the cost of producing and maintaining that OS will hurt Moto. Considering that they just started being profitable last year after years of losing money, I'd tend to think such a move would hurt the bottom line quite a bit. You only need look at Nokia to see how badly that decision can turn out.

  • brett6781

    It's gonna be for the lower end phones they make, kinda like Samsung's Bada OS...

    • Deon

      Or like HTC Brew. It's only for the lower end phones. Which is stupid, android can do just fine on lower end phones as well.

      Just what the mobile market needs, more alternatives. Consumers can't keep up with 10 different mobile OS's. They can barely keep up with two. In the Computer world it's Mac or Windows. Only the geeks and technical will give Linux a shot but the average person has heard of Windows and Mac. And now the average person has heard of Android and iPhone. Some may have heard of Windows Mobile 7. But see if they've heard of Samsung Bada or HP/Palm WebOS (although this is actually not a bad Mobile OS, it had the makings to be even more efficient and streamlined than Android, but I just don't see HP pushing it to other manufacturers like Google did) or HTC Brew. The average person, nah. They probably heard of Blackberry but most people I talk to think it's just a business phone for business email and such and don't really consider it on the same playing field as iPhone or Android.

      The only way Motorola could make a successful contender is the one way they won't do it. Make it fast, make it clean and optimize, keep the code beautiful and efficient, remove unnecessary junk, document the hell out of everything and really build in great features and make it all modular so any part can be changed, oh, and make it open source and available to any manufacturer. Only then could it possibly stand a chance, but since Motorola has already shown that they can't do any of this, they've lost before they even started. But at least there are some programmers and such out there who can make a few bucks off of Motorola while they waste their time on an OS alternative. That's many man hours of programming, so somebody's kids are going to get fed. Bright side :-)

  • iAndows7

    Good. Now Moto can hang themselves instead of just "shooting their foot".

  • portnoyd

    It'll be as successful as WebOS and WinMo 7.0, which means it won't be. GG Moto.

    • http://www.toysdiva.com PixelSlave

      Sorry, if they can even achieve the level of WebOS and WinMo 7, it will be a success ALREADY.

      • SladeNoctis

        To be honest WP7 is doing well compared to WebOS, which lets be honest is a pretty good multitasking OS but everytime it releases a new phone its outdated. The Pre 3 already has a timeframe where all the giants are coming out with Evo 3D, Thrill 4g, GS2 series and Iphone 5. Coming out successful requires a serious marketing.

  • jpinoy

    Actually, I got some email from Moto asking if they can ask me some questions about my Atrix.. here the body of the email:

    Why am I receiving this email?

    We are conducting an important research study with users of the Motorola Atrix smartphone.

    If you qualify, upon completion of your telephone interview we will send you $100!

    We have hired Head Research and GfK, independent professional marketing research firms, to recruit and interview people about their experiences with the Motorola Atrix smartphone. Your input will help Motorola Mobility make decisions about the design and features of future versions of this smartphone. If you qualify, upon completion of your telephone interview, we will send you $100 USD to thank you for your participation.

    How do I qualify?

    At a minimum, you must have a telephone other than your Motorola Atrix that you can talk on without interruption for 60 minutes on March 28th or March 29th. To determine whether you meet our full eligibility criteria, please click on the following link to complete a short questionnaire – once you click on the link, you will be taken to the Head Research Motorola Atrix Survey website. The questionnaire should take no more than 2 to 3 minutes of your time to complete and all of your responses will be held strictly confidential.

    Click on the following link to start your survey (if the link is broken across two lines or doesn't work when you click on it, copy the entire URL and paste it directly into your web browser):

    I clicked on the link for the questionaire, but they stated the quota was full for the survey(maybe cus I didn't say I owned the dock for the phone.. lol)

    • http://www.toysdiva.com PixelSlave

      May be their "$100" is a coupon for buying the dock, so that they can clear up their inventory :-D

  • http://robert.aitchison.org Robert Aitchison

    Motorola complaining about Android "fragmentation" is kind of like if Dick Cheney were to complain about erosion of civil liberties since 9/11.

  • AndroidUK

    Is it April 1st already?

    We need another OS like a hole in the head. Even Nokia has realised. It's bad enough with some of the "customised" front end GUI's that some manufacturers add that effectively delay OS updates often for months.

  • Hind

    A lot blame needs to lay at the feet of Google though.

    Then need to put their foot down and require that if you are going to run under the Android banner, then you MUST use stock Android.

    If not, then let Moto, Samsung and HTC come up with their own OS from the ground-up and we'll see how far they get.

  • http://www.hollercentral.com hollercentral

    Motorola can suck my moto!

  • cooperaaaron

    After the Cliq XT debacle, I will never buy any cell phone from them again... last product I bought from them was my 6120 modem... I have looked elsewhere and voted with my money NOT to mess with them again...

  • TheBob

    Yes, because Motorola handsets are selling so poorly.

    Honestly, I could kind of understand Motorola's concern, however, the sales numbers have to be difficult to ignore. Motorola may be considering their own OS, but they'd have to be suicidal to start ditching Android before their handset sales actually start slipping.

  • Drill

    Guys...wrong way of thinking....seems that Mot is not working to create a new OS, but his own code to be connected at the web.
    Make no sense left Android behind...

  • Jarl

    I guess they got tired of people asking for a Milestone update :)

  • http://www.anivision.org Xcom923

    I don't think moto is "shooting themselves in the foot" they are just trying to make sure they have a backup in case things with android don't work out. I can see why a big company like that would want to have a backup plan. Keep in mind HTC also doesn't back up Android 100% they still have tons of windows devices too. it's not uncommon for a manufacture to have more than one OS, even if that OS is home-brewed.

    • Deon

      This is true. HTC still has WinMo and even Brew. I guess it's ok to have an alternative, maybe a lower end lower quality. But they'll have a helluva time getting apps for it, developers are concentrating on the big two, Android and Apple. They simply can't stretch themselves 8 ways to support 8 different platforms. Maybe if their homebrew'd one is simple, has a decent browser and fast and efficient and runs on their slower devices, without as much cpu, because Android is a cpu and memory hog (I hate Java), then it may not be so bad. People buying the 'cheap' motorola's may not care to have all the bell's and whistle's android offers and the Android Market. But if they think it'll seriously contend against Android, then they've got no idea.

  • anyone

    I though that MOT's mobile unit was brankrupt until Android came along.
    Suddenly they're doing better... and the attitude is back.

  • the dude

    motorola you make good hardware and keep trying to fill it up with garbage software so you can be different.

    perhaps if your updates published more frequently and quickly android wouldn't be so fragmented

    be good different, make phones, let google make software, listen to early adopters without them you have nothing

    I really loved MOTO back in RZR glory days, now compelling hardware drizzled in turd syrup, never to be updated not even for critical issues.

  • http://dangerismymiddlename.com dangerismymiddlename.com

    the dude and Asphyx have it right: the only reason that companies like Motorola think that software is a differentiator, is because the refuse to support OS upgrades. Give timely upgrades and we will all buy your handheld computer. Keep pretending that this is a phone, and telling us that we'll get our upgrades when we buy a new one, and we will all be disappointed.

    • Asphyx

      Unfortunatly Moto really NEVER thinks their business decisions through to logical conclusions.

      Making a custom OS will only fragment them even further from the mainstream. And any differentiation they will get from a custom OS will also identify them as a don't bother option because Android, WP7 and iOS will add a feature to one phone that can be quickly adopted by all. All except the Moto OS!

      Motorola has always been awful at software! Blur is a manifestation of that but it goes much deeper than just their phone business. They have a digital video compressor/multiplexer which has been dogged by software issue from the day it was released.

      They are a hardware company not a software company and at least with Android they would have Google doing most of the heavy lifting for them.

      They go their own way they will differentiate themselves right out of the market!

      My guess is they are a little peeved that they worked with Google on the Honeycomb OS and not a month after the release of that unit others already are planning honeycomb OS Units to compete with it.

      The Xoom is no longer the wonder device as any android tablet will now be able to do the same thing.

      Moto is thinking about going back to their old ways. Make a phone and sell you a new one when new features come out.

      They will be differentiated alright. As the company who sells disposable phones!

      Well if they knock themselves out of the market again there will be no Android to get them back into the game.

  • jacob

    If this is true, Motorola is high.

    It's the handset makers fragmenting Android - not Google. KILL blur (or sense, or touchwiz, etc) use STOCK android, then voila! No fragmentation - updates right away!

    • Deon

      Their most popular smartphone, the Motorola Droid. OS? Stock Android. You'd think they'd have figured it out already. But they're like a roller coaster, when they're on the top they forgot how they got there and think they can do things their own way and ignore the people and devices that helped get them there. Then they'll crash again, and HTC and Samsung and LG will begin kickin their rears badly, and they'll almost be bankrupt again and they'll release some awesome phone, great features, and stock Android and it'll be a smash hit and they'll get on top again and then they'll start doing things their way again etc. etc. etc. it's a roller coaster with these guys.

  • Andrew

    Some observations:
    - this probably does not mean motorola is abandoning android, just supplementing with a likely simplified os that uses the same hardware and targets a specific market segment
    - likely will be able to run certain android apps and games
    - will be tightly locked-down, simplified, but stable os

  • Hypnopottamus

    Good luck w/ that. Motoblur should be an indication how the user experience on their new OS will be. IMO blur absolutely sucks! This is a risky move. Windows Mobile has a hard enough time surviving. How do you think another NEW OS is going to do? I will say, build quality wise, Motorola Android phones suck. Cheap, flimsy, & plasticy. The ONLY thing that made their phones high end was the OS, NOT the "premium" feel the phones had.

  • http://atrixphoneblog.com/ Bobby Mikels

    With the birth of Motorola Atrix and with the success of their “webtop application”, it seems that the development of their own Operating System is coming into reality. But the big question is if Motorola can stand alone without the help of Google’s Android OS. Let’s admit it, half of their success can be credited to Android. There is only one way to find out, Test the water Motorola! We are all waiting!

    • Asphyx

      You pretty much hit on my point about Moto.

      They are great at hardware innovation. It is something they are very strong in. Their software support is however not so good.

      They would do a lot better by making innovative hardware and running stock android so the software side would grow without the need for them to expend capital and time on something they were never very good at.

      As for the differentiation of software issue they and HTC both have not learned yet that they would be better off if instead of rewriting android stock, they should simply support it with a custom interface that works INSIDE the stock android and then sell those software items to users of any android unit to help pay for the future development of those software offerrings.

      HTC Sense used to run on top of WinMo. If they had bothered to package that so it could be installed on any WinMo phone how much money would they have made on that software alone?

      As another example, How much money is Garmin losing because their navigation software is an integration into a proprietary version of Android instead of just being an App that could be sold to users of ANY unit!

      It's called cutting off your nose to spite your face!

      Thats what Moto will be doing if they go proprietary and leave the comfortzone people have with Android.

      Truth is people go into the store to get either an Android phone or an iPhone with a few (very Few) going WP7.

      It is the hardware that determines which one of those targeted systems they will get.

      Design, Keyboard, Screen size, RAM, Proc, 4G or 3G Etc...

      What do most of us do once we get the phone home?
      Root, flash and get rid of any vestiges of the software Moto and HTC and the Carriers are trying to use to differentiate!

      So any money they waste trying to differentiate that way is just money they didn't need to spend.
      If they want to be in the software business they should open up a marketplace account and sell that software there when we might decide to pay for it and subsidize it's development.

      Not put it into a phone that will have it wiped out as soon as the root tools and custom roms are available.