Home Dining & Drinking Arts & Culture Politics & City Life Real Estate & Neighborhoods Style & Shopping Home & Garden Travel & Visitor’s Guide Video Best of Chicago Marketplace & Classifieds Subscribe Newsletters How a culture shift nearly doomed an iconic local company that once dominated the telecom industry. By Ted C. Fishman Published Monday at 11:50 a.m. O n the 18th floor of the Merchandise Mart, in a soaring two-story space underneath a vast industrial-looking stairway, a small crowd of business types, pols, and journalists gathers. They’re here on this warm April day to check out the geek-chic new offices of Motorola Mobility, the mobile phone maker that spun off from then-struggling telecommunications company Motorola (now Motorola Solutions) in January 2011 and got snapped up by tech giant Google seven months later. A big, silver-haired man wearing a dark suit, a Silicon Valley–style open-neck shirt, and a high-wattage smile steps up to the podium. Rick Osterloh has been the president and COO of Motorola Mobility for all of 10 days, the fourth man to run the place since its split from the mother ship. In a few minutes, this amiable Stanford grad will launch visitors on a tour of the slick 14-acre space. They’ll see images and artifacts from Motorola’s storied history—the first car radios, the first handheld mobile phones, the first device to carry voice and video from the moon to the earth—interspersed with lots of glass and metal and Google-bright colors. They’ll visit a game room complete with retro pinball machines, seven big labs with see-through walls, and 10 kitchens with tech themes. (In the NASA kitchen, snack bags nestle inside an Apollo space helmet.) But first Osterloh gives a short speech. He feels good about the future of Motorola Mobility and of Chicago, he says. The company’s growth rate, he claims, would be the envy of any startup: “Motorola Mobility shipped 6.5 million devices in the first quarter of the year, up 61 percent over the same quarter last year.” What Osterloh doesn’t mention is that those devices represent a paltry 2 percent of the global market for smartphones.
Home / Tech News / A history of Motorola: how interdivisional fights starting in the ’80s nearly doomed the company (Ted C. Fishman/Chicago Magazine)
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