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Trends vs Anomalies | RFC: What happened to Motorola?

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I’ve heard more news of layoffs at Motorola (specifically, Motorola Labs—or what was left of it). These days, layoffs are nothing new. Pretty much every tech company seems to be on a layoff spree. In this post, I question whether the layoffs are a trend or an anomaly.


To be clear, I am focusing on Motorola’s handset business. However, that seems to be what fuels Motorola’s rapid growth (when Motorola has it). I don’t worry about the public safety business. That business (as far as I know) has been on a steady growth trend for decades. One final caveat: I know absolutely nothing about stocks. This is not investment advice.

My mind goes back to the tech bust of 2001. Back then, people (at Motorola) said it was the worst they’ve ever seen it. I saw several people get laid off. Realize that this recession ocurred a little after I entered the workforce: it (partially) formed the basis of what I considered a normal market. I was in college during the go-go 90’s, where thousands of employers would show up on campus, looking to hire engineers. However, that was all I saw: I never really experienced any first-hand excess.

There were two points of view:

  1. The tech market would return to “normal” and we’d get on with our engineering lives.
  2. The tech market in the US was on a downward trend. Engineering careers would never return to what the used to be.

The optimistic view (#1) was confirmed in the interim period (2004-2007) when Motorola recovered. Motorola was buoyed by its success with the RAZR. Incidentally, this was when I returned to Motorola (2006). I didn’t have much of an opinion at the time. I thought it was good that Motorola came back with a hit. The question did come up about whether they’d need to do make a blockbuster every year, or if the market was just generally better and it didn’t matter. Honestly, I didn’t think much about it. I was just glad to be back.

Immediately after I returned, talk of downsizing returned. With our 2006 glasses, the 2001+ downturn was the anomaly. However, in 2008, it seemed to be the trend. In fact, the RAZR phenomenon of 2006 (then dubbed a trend) was now (in 2008) an anomaly.

I see an analogy with the US car industry: the large-car SUV craze now seems to be an anomaly. The trend now seems to be a decline in US car manufacturers.

So, where does that leave us today? I’d like to hear your comments: Is Motorola on a downward trend, interrupted by upward anomalies? Or is Motorola on an upward trend and two periods of this decade will be considered anomalies? Why?

Written by PoojanWagh

May 20th, 2009 at 9:24 am

Posted in Career/Work-Life

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