Google's Schmidt calls Motorola's upcoming products 'phones +'

NEW YORK--Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said that Motorola Mobility's upcoming products will be innovative and described them, somewhat mysteriously, as "phones+"

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt talks about Android.

"They have a new set of products which I have seen and they are phenomenal," Schmidt said here at AllThingsD's D: Dive Into Mobile conference. While he noted that "Android is a very tough, competitive market," he told the audience here to "witness this next generation of technology. Think of it as phones+."

Motorola is reportedly working on a so-called "X-Phone," an advanced Android device. During Google's fourth-quarter earnings conference call, CEO Larry Page said that he was "excited" about the future of Motorola's business. He said that "the opportunities are endless" for innovation in a multi-screen world.

"Think about your devices, battery life is a huge issue. You shouldn't have to worry about constantly recharging your phone," he said, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. "When you drop your phone, it shouldn't go splat. Everything should be done faster and easier." Those comments were similar to ones Page made to Wired about the potential for mobile hardware innovation.

Jim Wicks, Motorola's design chief, told PC Magazine the new generation of Motorola phones will launch in the second half of 2013, and will feature phones that break away from the trend of ever-bigger screens. The phones will also run stock Android software.

"Consumers love what the Android OS can do for them, and they want to have the most recent releases faster," Wicks said. "From a software and UI perspective, our strategy is to embrace Android and to make it the best expression of Android and Google in the market. It will be the unadulterated version of Android, and I feel really good about our embracing Android and being the best Android experience."

Schmidt also said that while there are 750 million Android devices now through 320 operators in 160 countries, and there are 1.5 million sales or activations of Android every day, there is more room to grow. "We will cross a billion [Android devices activated] in the next six to nine months," he said, adding that the industry is "nearing 2 billion within a year or two."

"I think Android is by far the primary vehicle by which people use smartphones," he said, especially as prices continue to come down.

Schmidt also downplayed any notion of tension between Google and Samsung Electronics, the world's largest handset and smartphone maker and the biggest Android device maker. According to research firm Gartner, in the fourth quarter Samsung commanded more than 42.5 percent of the Android market globally, and the next vendor had just 6 percent share. Media reports, including in the Wall Street Journal, have said Google has grown worried about Samsung exercising more influence in its relationship with Google. Schmidt called the reports of such tension inaccurate.

"Obviously we want a competitive market," he said. However, he said "the Samsung relationship has turned out to be a defining one" and that Google is glad Samsung has embraced Android as much as it has. 

Separately, Andy Rubin, the former head of Android, said Android was originally conceived as a way to create a world of "smart cameras" that connected to PCs, but was soon reworked for smartphones.

"The exact same platform, the exact same operating system we built for cameras, that became Android for cellphones," said Rubin, who spoke at an economic summit in Tokyo, according to IDG News Services.

Rubin, who stepped down from his Android post in March, said he would continue to create products for consumers. "I can pretty much guarantee you that whatever I do next it's going to be something that delights consumers," he said.

Rubin was replaced with Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president of Chrome and Apps, who took on Rubin's Android duties in addition to his existing work. Schmidt said the market should not read too much into the move or interpret it as a precursor to a merging of Android and Chrome.

"You don't want the [organization] design to drive product design," he said. "You want to build outstanding products."

Schmidt also praised Facebook's (NASDAQ:FB) Home for Android user interface, and said it was a marker of Android's openness. He said Google would not try to block Home if it became popular. "It would be counter to our public statements, our policies, our religion," he said.

"I think it's fantastic," Schmidt said. "This is what open source is about. Open source means open source. I think it's wonderful. It's experimentation, it's new ideas, it's creativity."

For more:
- see this Engadget article
- see this IDG News Service article
- see this PC Magazine article

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Article updated April 16 with additional information from Motorola.