Motorola Mobility: Westward, Ha!

Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT)'s Mobility headquarters in Libertyville, Ill., will be making the move out West once the company completes its mobile devices spinoff in the first quarter of 2011, Light Reading Mobile sources say. But the company says if it does change headquarters locations, that won't necessarily mean that lots of jobs will leave Illinois.

There have been rumblings of a Moto moving its center of gravity to California ever since the spinoff was first announced over two years ago. Rumblings that have only grown louder following co-CEO Sanjay Jha's unconvincing assurances on analyst calls that Moto won't leave the Windy City. [Ed. note: We must note here that "Unconvincing Assurances" would be a great name for a designer fragrance.]

Jha has only ever committed to retaining "a presence" in Illinois, but has also said the unit should go where software talent grows on trees -- California. (See Moloney Saying Good-Bye to Moto, Moto Shuffles Ahead of Split , and Moto Wants to Do the Splits .)

"It is 100 percent confirmed they are moving headquarters," says Uki Dominque Lucas, head of Chicago Android, a training and development community started by Motorola employees.

A Motorola spokeswoman says the company has been investigating potential new locations for its headquarters. "Illinois is very important to Motorola and today the company employs more than 10,000 people in the greater Chicago-area," she said in an email response to questions. Sources estimate that there are some 4,000 people employed by Motorola in Libertyville. But the spokeswoman notes that if the company decides to relocate after the spinoff, it will affect fewer than 200 people.

Lucas says that much of Moto's mobile software development is already occurring on the West Coast, although employment in Illinois hasn't been drastically effected save some departmental restructuring.

In sizing up Moto Mobility's plans, it appears that California is important to Moto, but the company hasn't abandoned Illinois, either:

  • Motorola's job boards show it is hiring slightly more people -- around 89 -- throughout California (47 in Sunnyvale), and only 67 in Libertyville.

  • Moto's recent acquisition of San Francisco's 280 North, a software developer, and today's purchase of Aloqa, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based software maker, are intriguing moves. Lucas says that Moto's appetite for developers that have already built Android apps is growing. (See Motorola Acquires Aloqa.)

  • Motorola Mobility has this week switched things up on the PR front, selecting Weber Shandwick as the PR agency for the division. The work will be spread across the Sunnyvale and Chicago offices, says a Weber Shandwick employee.

  • And, let's not forget that co-CEO Sanjay Jha remains a resident of San Diego. One analyst source tells Light Reading that a few of Jha's direct reports have made the move to California too.

    The heart of the matter for Motorola is that it is a hardware company to the core, and it's fighting to survive in world where software innovation is separating the winners and losers. It has gotten serious about its focus on Android, and likely will ramp up its activities on the West Coast without completely forgetting its Silicon Prairie roots.

    — Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

  • sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 4:23:32 PM
    re: Motorola Mobility: Westward, Ha!

    Sure - it can mean anything of those things, but I guess what I should of said is just most software development in general happens there.

    Chicago has a great developer community here too. And we've had lots of companies start here, although most have at least established some presence in Cali. Even Groupon opened an office there.

    If we're talking cities, Chicago is definitely > than San Fran. I'm not biased at all...

    paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:23:32 PM
    re: Motorola Mobility: Westward, Ha!


    Okay....wow well no bias here....

    Does "exciting" mean:

    1 - Unproven and prone to break? or;

    2 - Dealing with an interesting new area? or;

    3 - Provides a new experience?


    PS - Also, your current posting picture is very close to model quality.  You sure you want to be around these geeks?

    sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 4:23:32 PM
    re: Motorola Mobility: Westward, Ha!

    Most of the exciting software development does occur on the West coast, and I think Moto's acquisitions speak to that. Uki says it will continue to acquire companies that already made apps rather than try to build any of its own. Whose next?

    sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 4:23:31 PM
    re: Motorola Mobility: Westward, Ha!

    That's another good point. A lot of good start-ups are born from big companies like Moto. Engineers take what they've learned and build their own company (that the bigger company could eventually acquire back). Moto might not need Cali or Illinois for qualified developers, but they probably need it.

    eurichardson 12/5/2012 | 4:23:31 PM
    re: Motorola Mobility: Westward, Ha!

    Moto does a lot of its SW development in places like Bangalore, India. If you are looking for a large pool of qualified SW developers, the last place you want to relocate to is California. Salaries for SW engineers are very high and it is difficult for a public company to attract good talent - public companies cannot match the incentives and excitement that comes with joining startups.

    The only reason why Moto is relocating to CA is because the CEO lives there. What happens if the next CEO is from Seattle or Boston? Will they pack up and relocate again?

    changhakchoi 12/5/2012 | 4:23:28 PM
    re: Motorola Mobility: Westward, Ha!

    Let's not forget that the Internet Browser (NCSA Mosaic) was developed in Central Illinois (UIUC), but then commercialized out in Silicon Valley.  I'm a Chicago transplant now living on the west coast and believe that much of the talent developed in the midwest do not have the exciting opportunities to stay near home.  For those who do not care to move to the west coast for the weather, outdoor activities and progressive lifestyle their choices become limited for start-ups and VC funded companies.  I do not know the answer, but I believe that if nimble minded start-ups opened up shop in a cool Chicago neighborhood - Lincoln Park, Bucktown, the Loop - there would be many SW engineers who preferred this lifestyle to suburban Silicon Valley, Rainy Seattle or flashy Orange County from UIUC, Purdue, Madison, Michigan, Notre Dame, Northwestern.. just to name a few universities.

    gchoi 12/5/2012 | 4:23:26 PM
    re: Motorola Mobility: Westward, Ha!

    If we're talking cities, Chicago is definitely > than San Fran. 

    Speaking for us San Diegans, we think it's a good idea not to live somewhere that gets colder than your freezer.  

    sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 4:23:24 PM
    re: Motorola Mobility: Westward, Ha!

    I knew someone would pull the winter card! There's not much I can say there. :)

    Sign In