Big Android push at Motorola could mean layoffs

Four phone platforms would be dumped, Wall Street Journal reports

Motorola Inc. plans to focus on Android software for its showcase midtier phones and will drop development on four other phone platforms, likely resulting in thousands of layoffs, according to a published report today.

Much of the report could be confirmed at a Motorola third-quarter earnings call tomorrow morning. Motorola officials declined comment.

The report, in The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), said the decision to rely on Android, developed by the Open Handset Alliance under the leadership of Google Inc., was made by Sanjay Jha, who was named Motorola's cell phone chief and co-CEO in August.

Analysts have been predicting Jha would make dramatic moves to restore profitability at the mobile device division.

If four phone systems are eliminated, dozens of phones under development could be dropped, resulting in layoffs of those designers working on them. Only two of the Motorola platforms would be retained under Jha's plans, the report said.

Other reports have indicated that Motorola plans to build an Android phone priced at $150 with a touch screen and QWERTY keyboard somewhat similar to the just-released T-Mobile G1. Motorola's phone would ship by next summer.

The report, citing unnamed sources, said the Android phone from Motorola would be a midtier device with Internet capability and other multimedia features. Business-focused devices from Motorola would continue to use the Windows Mobile operating system. Meanwhile, Motorola's proprietary platform, P2K, would be used for low-cost phones.

Jha was hired with the understanding that the cell phone unit would be split from the remainder of Motorola. In August, officials said the spin-off was expected to occur in mid-2009.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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