Motorola, Inc. (/ˌmtəˈrlə/[2]) was an American multinational telecommunications company based in Schaumburg, Illinois. It was founded in 1928 as Galvin Manufacturing Corporation by brothers Paul and Joseph Galvin.[3] The company changed its name to Motorola in 1947.[4] After having lost $4.3 billion from 2007 to 2009, Motorola was split into two independent public companies, Motorola Mobility and Motorola Solutions, on January 4, 2011.[5] The reorganization was structured with Motorola Solutions legally succeeding Motorola, Inc., and Motorola Mobility being spun off.[6]

Motorola, Inc.
FormerlyGalvin Manufacturing Corporation (1928–1947)
Company typePublic
FoundedSeptember 25, 1928; 95 years ago (1928-09-25)
DefunctJanuary 4, 2011; 13 years ago (2011-01-04)
FateSplit into Motorola Mobility and Motorola Solutions
SuccessorsMotorola Mobility
Motorola Solutions
Freescale Semiconductor
ON Semiconductor
Arris Group (General Instrument)
Cambium Networks
NXP Semiconductors
HeadquartersSchaumburg, Illinois, U.S.
Area served
ProductsTablet computers
Mobile phones
Two-way radios
Networking systems
Cable television systems
Wireless broadband networks
RFID systems
Mobile telephone infrastructure
Number of employees
53,000 (2010)[1]
DivisionsMobile Devices
Home & Networks Mobility
Enterprise Mobility Solutions (archived December 31, 2010)

Motorola designed and sold wireless network equipment such as cellular transmission base stations and signal amplifiers. Motorola's home and broadcast network products included set-top boxes, digital video recorders, and network equipment used to enable video broadcasting, computer telephony, and high-definition television. Its business and government customers consisted mainly of wireless voice and broadband systems (used to build private networks), and public safety communications systems like Astro and Dimetra. These businesses, except for set-top boxes and cable modems, became part of Motorola Solutions.

Motorola's wireless telephone handset division was a pioneer in cellular telephones. Also known as the Personal Communication Sector (PCS) prior to 2004, it pioneered the "mobile phone" with the first truly mobile "brick phone" DynaTAC, "flip phone" with the MicroTAC as well as the "clam phone" with the StarTAC in the mid-1990s. It had staged a resurgence by the mid-2000s with the RAZR, but lost market share in the second half of that decade. Later it focused on smartphones using Google's open-source Android mobile operating system. The first phone to use Android 2.0 "Eclair", the Motorola Droid, was released in 2009 (the GSM version launched a month later, in Europe, as the Motorola Milestone).[7][8] The handset division, along with the cable set-top box and modem businesses, were later spun off into Motorola Mobility.



Motorola was founded in Chicago, Illinois, as Galvin Manufacturing Corporation (at 847 West Harrison Street)[9] in 1928.

Paul Galvin wanted a brand name for Galvin Manufacturing Corporation's new car radio, and created the name "Motorola" by linking "motor" (for motorcar) with "ola" (from Victrola), which was also a popular ending for many companies at the time, e.g. Moviola, Crayola.[10] The company sold its first Motorola branded radio on June 23, 1930, to Herbert C. Wall of Fort Wayne, Indiana, for $30.[11][12] The Motorola brand name became so well known that Galvin Manufacturing Corporation later changed its name to Motorola, Inc., in 1947.[4][3]

Galvin Manufacturing Corporation began selling Motorola car-radio receivers to police departments and municipalities in November 1930. The company's first public safety customers (all in the U.S. state of Illinois) included the Village of River Forest, Village of Bellwood Police Department, City of Evanston Police, Illinois State Highway Police, and Cook County (Chicago area) Police.[13]

Many of Motorola's products have been radio-related, starting with a battery eliminator for battery powered radios (during the burgeoning electrification of rural homes), through the first hand-held walkie-talkie in the world in 1940,[14] defense electronics, cellular infrastructure equipment, and mobile phone manufacturing. In the same year, the company built its research and development program with Dan Noble, a pioneer in FM radio and semiconductor technologies, who joined the company as director of research. The company produced the hand-held AM SCR-536 radio during World War II, which was vital to Allied communication. Motorola ranked 94th among United States corporations in the value of World War II military production contracts.[15]

Motorola went public in 1943,[16] and became Motorola, Inc. in 1947. At that time Motorola's main business was producing and selling televisions and radios.

Post World War II

Motorola vacuum tube carton

The last plant was listed in Quincy, Illinois at 1400 North 30th Street where 1,200 employees made radio assemblies for both homes and automobiles.[17]

In 1969, Neil Armstrong spoke the famous words "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" from the Moon on a Motorola transceiver.[18]

In 1973, Motorola demonstrated the first hand-held portable telephone.[19]

In 1974, Motorola introduced its first microprocessor, the 8-bit MC6800, used in automotive, computing and video game applications.[20] The 6800 was the basis for the more popular MOS Technology 6502 which was made by former Motorola employees. That same year, Motorola sold its television business to the Japan-based Matsushita – the parent company of Panasonic.

In 1980, Motorola's next generation 32-bit microprocessor, the MC68000, led the wave of technologies that spurred the computing revolution in 1984, powering devices from companies such as Apple, Commodore, Atari, Sun, and Hewlett-Packard.[21]

Dr. Martin Cooper of Motorola made the first private handheld mobile phone call on a larger prototype model in 1973. This is a reenactment in 2007.

In September 1983, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the DynaTAC 8000X telephone, the world's first commercial cellular device. By 1998, cellphones accounted for two thirds of Motorola's gross revenue.[22]

In 1986 Motorola acquired Storno[23] resulting in a whole new range of innovative communication products for the new owner,[24] including the NMT, an automatic cellular phone system, and made Motorola a more central player in the early stages of the GSM standardization process in 1987.[25] With this addition Motorola strengthened its position in Europe significantly. As Motorola's European development arm, Storno developed a GSM terminal in 1992.[26]

On January 29, 1988, Motorola sold its Arcade, New York facility and automotive alternators, electromechanical speedometers and tachometers products to Prestolite Electric.[27]

In 1996, Motorola released the Motorola StarMax, which was a Macintosh clone that was licensed by Apple and it came with System 7. However, with the return of Steve Jobs to Apple in 1997, Apple released Mac OS 8. Because the clone makers' licenses were valid only for Apple's System 7 operating system, Apple's release of Mac OS 8 left the clone manufacturers unable to ship a current Mac OS version without negotiation with Apple.[28] A heated telephone conversation between Jobs and then Motorola CEO Christopher Galvin resulted in the termination of Motorola's clone contract, the discontinuation of the Motorola StarMax, and the long-favored Apple being demoted to "just another customer" mainly for PowerPC CPUs. Apple (and Jobs) did not want Motorola to limit the PowerPC CPU supply so as retaliation, Apple and IBM expelled Motorola from the AIM alliance and forced Motorola to stop producing any PowerPC CPUs, leaving IBM to make all future PowerPC CPUs. However, Motorola was later reinstated into the alliance in 1998.[29]

In 1998, Motorola was overtaken by Nokia as the world's biggest seller of mobile phone handsets.[18]

In 1999, Motorola separated a portion of its semiconductor business—the Semiconductor Components Group (SCG)-- and formed onsemi (then ON Semiconductor), whose headquarters were located in Phoenix, Arizona.[30]

After 2000


In June 2000, Motorola and Cisco supplied the world's first commercial GPRS cellular network to BT Cellnet in the United Kingdom. Motorola also developed the world's first GPRS cell phone.

In August 2000, Motorola acquired Printrak International Inc.[31] for $160 million.[32] In doing so, Motorola not only acquired computer aided dispatch and related software, but also acquired Automated fingerprint identification system software.[33] With recent acquisitions from that year, Motorola reached its peak employment of 150,000 employees worldwide.[34] Two years later, employment would be at 93,000 due to layoffs and spinoffs.

In June 2005, Motorola overtook the intellectual property of Sendo for $30,000 and paid £362,575 for the plant, machinery and equipment.[35]

In June 2006, Motorola acquired the software platform (AJAR) developed by the British company TTP Communications plc.[36] Later in 2006, the firm announced a music subscription service named iRadio. The technology came after a break in a partnership with Apple Computer (which in 2005 had produced an iTunes compatible cell phone ROKR E1, and most recently, mid-2007, its own iPhone). iRadio was to have many similarities with existing satellite radio services (such as Sirius and XM Radio) by offering live streams of commercial-free music content. Unlike satellite services, however, iRadio content would be downloaded via a broadband internet connection. However, iRadio was never commercially released.[37]

Greg Brown became Motorola's chief executive officer in 2008.[38] In October 2008, Motorola agreed to sell its Biometrics business to Safran, a French defense firm. Motorola's biometric business unit was headquartered in Anaheim, California. The deal closed in April 2009.[39] The unit became part of Sagem Morpho, which was renamed MorphoTrak.



On March 26, 2008, Motorola's board of directors approved a split into two different publicly traded companies.[40] This came after talk of selling the company to another corporation.[41] These new companies would comprise the business units of Motorola Mobile Devices and Motorola Broadband & Mobility Solutions. Originally it was expected that this action would be approved by regulatory bodies and complete by mid-2009, but the split was delayed due to company restructuring problems and the 2008–2009 extreme economic downturn.[42]

On February 11, 2010, Motorola announced it would separate into two independent, publicly traded companies.[43] The cell phone and cable television equipment businesses would spin off to form Motorola Mobility, while the remainder of Motorola, Inc., which comprised the government and enterprise equipment businesses, would become Motorola Solutions. The split was closed on January 4, 2011.[5] Motorola Mobility was eventually acquired by Google on May 22, 2012.[44] Google later sold Motorola Mobility's cable equipment business to Arris Group in December 2012,[45] and Motorola Mobility itself to Lenovo on October 30, 2014.[46]



At the time of its split, Motorola had three divisions:[47]

  • Enterprise Mobility Solutions was headquartered in Schaumburg, Illinois. It comprised communications offered to government and public safety sectors and enterprise mobility business. Motorola developed analog and digital two-way radio, voice and data communications products and systems, mobile computing, advanced data capture, wireless infrastructure and RFID solutions to customers worldwide.
  • Home & Networks Mobility produced end-to-end systems that facilitate uninterrupted access to digital entertainment, information and communications services via wired and wireless mediums. Motorola developed digital video system solutions, interactive set-top devices, voice and data modems for digital subscriber line and cable networks, broadband access systems for cable and satellite television operators, and also wireline carriers and wireless service providers. It was based in Arlington Heights, Illinois.
  • Mobile Devices' headquarters were located in Chicago, Illinois, and designed wireless handsets, but also licensed much of its intellectual properties. This included cellular and wireless systems and as well as integrated applications and Bluetooth accessories.



Motorola's handset division recorded a loss of $1.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2007, while the company as a whole earned $100 million during that quarter.[48] It lost several key executives to rivals,[49] and the website TrustedReviews called the company's products repetitive and un-innovative.[50] Motorola laid off 3,500 workers in January 2008,[51] followed by a further 4,000 job cuts in June[52] and another 20% cut of its research division a few days later.[53] In July 2008, a large number of executives left Motorola to work on Apple Inc.'s iPhone.[54] The company's handset division was also put on offer for sale.[55] Also that month, analyst Mark McKechnie from American Technology Research said that Motorola "would be lucky to fetch $500 million" for selling its handset business. Analyst Richard Windsor said that Motorola might have to pay someone to take the division off the company's hands, and that Motorola may even exit the handset market altogether.[56] Its global market share has been on the decline; from 18.4% of the market in 2007 the company had a share of just 6.0% by Q1 2009, but at last, Motorola scored a profit of $26 million in Q2 and showed an increase of 12% in stocks for the first time after losses in many quarters. During the second quarter of 2010, the company reported a profit of $162 million, which compared very favorably to the $26 million earned for the same period the year before. Its Mobile Devices division reported, for the first time in years, earnings of $87 million.[57]

Environmental record


Motorola, Inc., along with the Arizona Water Co. had been identified as the sources of trichloroethylene (TCE) contamination that took place in Scottsdale, Arizona. The malfunction led to a ban on the use of water that lasted three days and affected almost 5000 people in the area. Motorola was found to be the main source of the TCE, an industrial solvent that is thought to cause cancer. The TCE contamination was caused by a faulty blower on an air stripping tower that was used to take TCE from the water, and Motorola has attributed the situation to operator error.[58]

Of eighteen leading electronics manufacturers in Greenpeace's Guide to Greener Electronics (October 2010), Motorola shared sixth place with competitors Panasonic and Sony.[59]

Motorola scored relatively well on the chemicals criteria and has a goal to eliminate PVC plastic and Brominated flame retardants (BFRs), though only in mobile devices and not in all its products introduced after 2010, despite the fact that Sony Ericsson and Nokia were already there. All of its mobile phones were now PVC-free and it had two PVC and BFR-free mobile phones, the A45 ECO and the GRASP; all chargers were also free from PVC and BFRs.[59]

The company was also increasing the proportion of recycled materials used in its products. For example, the housings for the MOTO W233 Renew and MOTOCUBO A45 Eco mobile phones contained plastic from post-consumer recycled water cooler bottles.[60] According to the company's information, all of Motorola's newly designed chargers met the current Energy Star requirements and exceed the requirements for standby/no-load modes by at least 67%.[61]

See also



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Further reading

  • Gart, Jason H. (2006). Electronics and Aerospace Industry in Cold War Arizona, 1945–1968: Motorola, Hughes Aircraft, Goodyear Aircraft (PhD. diss.). Arizona State University.
  • Official website (archived December 31, 2010)