25th May 2012

Dennis Woodside and Motorola Mobility

From Apple to Facebook, the world’s biggest technology companies are racing to find a way to make internet ads work on handheld devices. And Google has just entered the race, with the announcement on Tuesday that its purchase of mobile phone company Motorola Mobility (MMi) has been finalized after a long delay. At $12.5 billion, this is Google’s most expensive acquisition ever, and marks the company’s first foray into the hardware market. Until now, Google’s massive success has been based solely on web services, and the lion’s share of its profits have come from advertising revenues derived from its internet search. But the use of smartphones is skyrocketing,and as yet none of technology’s big players has developed a credible solution to the problem of how to put ads on the small screens of handheld devices. Google may be able to use its newly acquired hardware company to do just that.

Bloomberg Business Week reports Apple CEO Tim Cook tried to poach executive Dennis Woodside from Google to run Apple’s marketing division last year. As an incentive to stay with the company, Google bosses promised Woodside he would be given more responsibility, and they’ve delivered on that promise by appointing him CEO of MMi. Now it’s Woodside’s turn to deliver. Running MMi is going to be a huge challenge. Motorola was the first company to develop mobile phones back in the 80s, and it was a market leader for many years but fell behind more recently when it lost its way in the new market for touchscreen smartphones.

Woodside, who has been with Google since 2003, was given responsibility for overseeing the purchase of MMi, and takes over from Sanjay Jha as CEO. While waiting for the deal to be finalized, Woodside quietly assembled an impressive team to help him run the company; most of MMi’s high-level executives are moving on when he takes over. Woodside is an experienced leader, and Google president and co-founder Larry Page has a lot of confidence in him. “I’ve known Dennis for nearly a decade, and he’s been phenomenal at building teams and delivering on some of Google’s biggest bets,” Page said. “One of his first jobs at Google was to put on his backpack and build our businesses across the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe and Russia. More recently he helped increase our revenue in the U.S. from $10.8 billion to $17.5 billion in under three years as President of the Americas region.” And it seems Woodside is off to a good start, having already installed his team at MMi before he walks in the door. His first 100 days in charge of Google’s first ever hardware company may one to remember. The race is on.

Hilda Goold

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