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Google exec: There's a wall between Nexus, Motorola

Google says it treats Motorola like every other partner, which means the door's open for Motorola to get its own Nexus phone.

Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
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Roger Cheng
2 min read
Google's Nexus 4 is a hot seller. Brian Bennett/CNET

BARCELONA, Spain--Google considers its own Motorola Mobility unit the same as HTC or Samsung Electronics when it comes to their relationship.

"It's almost as if they are a separate company," said Hiroshi Lockheimer, vice president of engineering for Android at Google, adding that there is a wall between the Nexus business and Motorola.

Still, in answering a question about whether Motorola would ever participate in the Nexus program again, Lockheimer wasn't particularly clear. While there is a firewall between the two businesses, the equal treatment of Motorola and Samsung suggests there is the possibility of collaboration on a Nexus phone.

"We treat all of our partners fairly," he said. "Motorola we consider a partner just like HTC or Samsung."

Google's acquisition of Motorola has caused tension between the Internet search giant and its vendor partners, some of whom privately expressed concerns. The Nexus program is seen as a chance for a company to participate in a halo product launch that garners all the buzz and hype of a usual Google product announcement.

So far, Google has navigated it well, folding Asus and LG into the mix with Samsung in last year's Nexus products. Motorola was a launch partner for the first version of Android 2.0, or Eclair, with the first Droid, but that was when Motorola was a separate company.

But with rumors spreading of a flagship phone created by Motorola, or a Google "X" phone, those quiet tensions could bubble up more publicly.

Google, meanwhile has been happy with the reception of the Nexus 4, which suffered from supply constraints due to overwhelming demand.

Jamie Rosenberg, vice president of digital content and the Google Play store, said that the supply issues have been resolved, and sales of the Nexus 4 have caught up to demand.

"It was certainly frustrating that we weren't able to meet demand," he said.

On whether Google could drive down the price of future Nexus devices further, Lockheimer said there was always room to go lower. But at some point, there's a decision to be made about the features of the phone vs. the price.

"What's the right price point? How do we maximize the feature set of the product?" he said.

For now, Lockheimer said he was happy with the price point of both the Nexus 4, which sells for $299 without a contract, as well as the $199 Nexus 7 tablet.