Motorola's handset business has been MIA throughout 2012 as it waits for Google to clear regulatory hurdles for the acquisition. But has Motorola already lost too much market momentum?
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Motorola hasn't introduced any new smartphones since the Consumer Electronics Show back in January. In the early weeks of 2012, it showed off both the Droid 4 and RAZR MAXX for Verizon Wireless. Both devices went on sale with Big Red later that month and have been reaching retail shelves in markets around the world ever since.
The company fielded a handful of devices in the latter months of 2011, including the Admiral, Droid RAZR, and Atrix 2. All were decent Android smartphones for various U.S. and world networks.
But Motorola has sat out most of 2012 so far. Lest you forget, Motorola Mobility has two businesses: cellular phones and set-top boxes for cable providers. Motorola hasn't brought any new hardware to market for one-third of the 2012 calendar year. What gives?
It would appear that Motorola is waiting to be acquired by Google and is suffering through a quiet period until that happens.
Google announced in August 2011 plans to acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. The U.S. government and European Commission antitrust regulators have both approved the acquisition. The deal is waiting only on China to give Motorola and Google the green light. Chinese regulators have said only that the deal needs more consideration and haven't provided any specific reasons for the extended delay in the review process.
It is common for companies to sit idly while awaiting change in ownership, but the smartphone market is moving at a blistering pace. While Motorola has been sitting on its hands, major competitors HTC, Nokia, and Samsung have all trotted out their flagship devices for 2012 (the One X, Lumia 900, and Galaxy S III, respectively). Two of these devices are already available to U.S. buyers, and the last will hit store shelves next month. Even Motorola's lesser competitors, such as LG, Sony, ZTE, and Huawei, have brought new devices to market.
Motorola has lost a lot of sales momentum after kicking off the Android craze in late 2009. It's not going to win that momentum back if it doesn't start selling new smartphone models in the near future. At this point, we can only assume that Motorola is sitting on a growing stockpile of unannounced devices that will hit the market soon after the Google deal is closed.
Google, for its part, has assured industry watchers and users multiple times that it will not favor Motorola when it comes to Android once the acquisition is complete. Though exclusive features would be the best thing possible for Motorola's Android handsets, such a practice would raise the ire of Google's Android partners.
Thanks to the extended Chinese regulatory review, Google doesn't expect to close its acquisition of Motorola until sometime this summer. With any luck, Motorola won't have completely fallen off the radar of smartphone consumers by that point.
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