The time has come for Google, the king of online search, to show if it has any business selling hardware.
After lacklustre results selling devices made by other companies, Google is giving hardware another try - this time with a smartphone made by a company it owns. On Thursday, Motorola Mobility, the handset maker Google bought last year for $US12.5 billion, introduced the Moto X, the company's first major device since the deal.
The stakes are big for Google, and not only because of the high price it paid for Motorola. Google is hugely profitable, but its growth is slowing because of lagging ad sales. Success with the new phone could lead to a new source of revenue and a way to get more users to view the company's ads. Still, sales could be an uphill climb. The phone, decked out with multiple processors, sensors and voice controls, is landing squarely in the brutally competitive market for high-end smartphones. And Google has a lot to prove before it is taken seriously as a hardware maker.
Motorola's executives think they have something special with the Moto X, to be sold by all the major US phone carriers beginning this month or early in September. It has a 11.9-centimetre touch screen, which puts it right between the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S4 from Samsung. And it has a sophisticated camera and high-speed connections.
What executives hope makes the Moto X stand out is its voice command capabilities, such as continually listening for a user's voice and quickly reacting to commands. Saying, "OK Google, now find me my way home" will quickly pull up a Google map with directions to a user's house, for example. The phone learns the voice of its owner and responds only to it. Some might find this creepy, but it is a feature that a user must turn on voluntarily.
Motorola says it plans to offer a broad range of products. One is a lower-cost smartphone, to be introduced later this year.