A requiem for Motorola

Yet another iconic technology brand bites the dust.

Lenovo renames Motorola Moto

Lenovo re-introduced the Motorola brand to China last week.

Credit: Michael Kan/IDG News Service

You know, I’m getting kind of tired of penning these requiems for cherished technologies and brands. In the last couple years, I’ve had to write remembrances for Yahoo, BlackBerry, and RadioShack (I declined to give the “honor” to Google Plus). Now I find myself doing it again for yet another iconic nameplate: Motorola.

Founded in Chicago way back in 1928 as Galvin Manufacturing Corporation, Motorola enjoyed decades as a leader in the car radio market (motor-ola, get it?) while making various other kinds of radios and electronic devices. Eventually, the company branched out into everything from televisions to microprocessors and laptops. It came up with the Six Sigma quality-improvement process, now a global standard.

In the modern era, Motorola invented the cellphone and became the largest cellphone handset maker in the world, employing more than 150,000 people. But the dominance didn’t last.

Passed by Nokia (how did I miss writing that one?), the struggling company was split into two parts in 2011, but both still used a form of the Motorola name, and shortly thereafter Google bought the Motorola Mobility portion for $12.5 billion. Google sold the unit to Lenovo in 2014 for less than $3 billion. And now the Chinese company is phasing out the Motorola name in favor of… Moto.

Seriously. Moto.

At least the company will retain Motorola's classic M logo—for now, anyway. And the other half of the split, Motorola Solutions, the portion that survived the Google buyout, will continue on as an independent company with “a wide-ranging portfolio” of business communication products.

But the Motorola that revolutionized mobile technology, that built the chips powering the first Macs, that created the two-way pager, that came up with the Razr, that brought us color TV, that helped the word hear Neil Armstrong mis-speak his famous “One small step for (a) man…” greeting from the moon? That company hasn’t really been around for a while. And now we won’t even have the name to help conjure the memories.

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