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Motorola Mobility finds less is more, except when it comes to that rooftop deck

Motorola Mobility’s new HQ includes the largest privately owned rooftop deck in the city. | Sun-Times photo/Al Podgorski

Motorola Mobility aims to become a fast-growth success story under new owner Lenovo just as it celebrates its move from suburban Libertyville to loft-style, urban-cool headquarters at the Merchandise Mart.

Rick Osterloh, who was named Motorola Mobility president and chief operating officer just two weeks ago, said in an interview that the company will remain focused on building three Android-based smartphones — the Droid, Moto X and Moto G — and selling them as great values.

Rick Osterloh

That product focus represents a dramatic downsizing from the 45 products Motorola rolled out in the old days, back when the company was heralded as inventing the first cellphone and transferring the first call from the moon to Earth.

More recently, after Motorola Inc. split into two companies, Mobility was sold to Google for $12.5 billion two years ago and then announced in January it is being sold for $2.9 billion to China-based Lenovo. The Lenovo deal is expected to be completed by year’s end.

Osterloh emphasized that the company still relies heavily on engineers to keep its products — including a new smart watch — cutting edge and user-friendly. Indeed, 66 percent of the company’s 2,000 employees in Chicago are engineers, whether in hardware, software, supply chain, product management or consumer experience design.

Motorola Mobility counts on the expertise to upgrade its phones’ features constantly, enabling customers to keep their phones, too, Osterloh said.

“We’ve done more than 40 such upgrades to Moto X since last August,” he said.

Osterloh, formerly Mobility’s senior vice president for product management, takes the reins as Motorola reports growing shipments and market share. The company had 7 percent market share in the fourth quarter compared with less than 1 percent six months earlier, and its 6.5 million shipments in the first quarter were up 31 percent from the fourth quarter and up 61 percent from the same time a year ago. The Moto G phone grabbed a 6 percent share of the U.K. market in February, compared with virtually none at the end of 2013, according to Kantar Worldpanel ComTech figures.

And last week, Google reported Motorola Mobility’s first-quarter revenue would have been $1.45 billion.

A media tour of the 600,000-square-foot headquarters on Tuesday featured a constant blending of the old and the new Motorola Mobility.

One of 10 cafes features iconic photos of the glory days, including Motorola’s start in Chicago in 1928 as Galvin Manufacturing Corp. at 847 W. Harrison St., while offering startup-type amenities such as bright lighting, open space, free food and drinks, ergonomically correct furniture, and a game room with HD TVs to watch games.

Of the 2,000 employees, 432 — or 25 percent of those eligible — have taken Motorola Mobility’s relocation package, agreeing to shorten their commutes by at least 30 minutes, said Scott Sullivan, senior vice president of human resources. The company expects one-third of those enrolled will move to Chicago from the suburbs.

Motorola Mobility wrapped up the new headquarters with a bow by offering:

  • Twenty percent off for employees at certain child-care centers, replacing its former on-site child care center.
  • A $150,000 donation to the Chicago Public Library to keep open for another year its “maker lab,” where patrons can work with 3-D printers and design software such as MeshLab, MakerCam and Inkscape.
  • Labs designed by architectural firm Gensler, including a former NBC Radio and NBC-TV studio space that shields noise to test unwanted emissions from smartphones.
  • The largest privately owned rooftop deck in the city, expanding to 50,000 square feet from its current first-phase 12,000 square feet.

Live blog: Tour new Motorola Mobility headquarters in Chicago

Google selling Motorola phone business to Lenovo for $2.9B

An interior view of Motorola Mobility’s headquarters in the Merchandise Mart. | Sun-Times photo/Al Podgorski