If you’re looking for an explanation as to just why Motorola, a company struggling to recapture its brief glory from the RAZR, seems so inept at building a great phone, look no further than this article over at Gizmodo:

“There’s this amazing wealth of engineering talent, but there’s no system for harnessing that talent for the good of the consumer,” says one former Motorola executive. The men in the R&D labs are permitted to indulge their flights of fancy, many of which center on fine-tuning antennas to optimize reception. Meanwhile, no one pays much attention to more prosaic fundamentals such as reliable software.

The article, which quotes the ominous “insiders”, lambasts Motorola as a culture where engineers reign supreme, marginalizing designers and consumer research.

Something rings a bit untrue about this though. One, if engineers ran the shop, wouldn’t the software be unattractive but functional? The majority of the phones from Motorola are plagued by issues on all sides of the product equation. Unreliable, slow software, coupled with poor design on the software side. Either the engineers in control at Motorla are hardware junkies, with no understanding of software, and the designers are castrated lackies, or both sides are equally incompetent and blaming each other.

I think the latter seems far more likely.

Thanks for pointing the article out Robb.


Update: Mike Karlesky, via email, disagrees:

I can assure you that it’s entirely possible for Motorola engineers to run the shop and yet not deliver functional devices. When it comes to electronics and firmware engineers, there’s a distinct line between developing amazing, intellectually stimulating core functionality and developing functionality that is robust.

In more cases than I care to remember, I’ve seen engineers spend inordinate amounts of time tweaking and building something that is elegant and powerful that fails in 50% of real world uses because the engineer in question overbuilt unnecessary functionality but paid no attention to edge cases, error handling, testing, or integrating with the rest of a system’s complexity.

Fair enough.

I prefer to give engineers the benefit of the doubt, but as I said, it’s entirely possible both divisions at Motorola are equally incompetent.