Motorola: Pink Slip Fever (2/12/01)

Isn't it funny how some things can be slightly shocking even as they're utterly unsurprising? For example, when faithful viewer Michael pointed us towards a Reuters article reporting that Motorola is planning to slash a whopping 4000 jobs from its semiconductor unit this year, we were indeed shocked by the sheer brutality of the act; those 4000 jobs account for a sizeable 12% of Motorola's semiconductor division, so this strategy qualifies less as "downsizing" and more as "amputation." Medic!

At the same time, though, technically speaking, we weren't all that surprised. After all, it was less than a month ago that the company announced the "trimming" of 2500 workers in its mobile phone division, in conjunction with the shutdown of its phone manufacturing plant in Harvard, Illinois-- all as part of a "long-term, company-wide strategy" to "improve financial performance." At the time we had suggested that if the company found its phone business floundering so badly, maybe it should consider waving the white flag, ceding the market to Nokia, ditching the phone game altogether, and focusing entirely on making the best computer processors on the market. Yeah, that idea sure went far. Now that one out of every eight people in Motorola's semiconductor business has gotten the axe, it appears the bigwigs at the company have ignored our suggestion as blatantly as they ignored Moore's Law for all of last year.

So, 4000 pink slips later (well, okay, not really-- some cuts will be made by "attrition," otherwise known as the "Let The Rats Desert The Sinking Ship" plan, while others will fall under the euphemistic umbrella of "voluntary and involuntary severance programs"), the big question on the minds of Mac users the world over is, what's going to happen to the PowerPC? More specifically, what's going to happen to our PowerPCs, the G3 and G4? Unfortunately, right now no one's got the easy answers. According to MacCentral, Motorola has publicly stated that it's "continuing to invest in R&D and build on [its] strengths to provide embedded solutions for the person, work team, home, and auto." Embedded solutions. Meaning, of course, that Motorola will sell you a processor for your fridge and one for your car (provided the company can scrape together enough pairs of hands to crank the chips out in the first place), but there's a distinct and potentially ominous lack of any comment whatsoever about chips designed for use in personal computers.

Meanwhile, we imagine that Steve and the gang are watching Motorola's latest spiral into beleaguerment with no small amount of interest. Avie Tevanian has probably been asked at least a dozen times since Friday whether or not that secret x86 build of Mac OS X is at feature-parity with the most recent PPC binaries. And Steve's probably got AMD's number on speed-dial by now...

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The above scene was taken from the 2/12/01 episode:

February 12, 2001: First the cell phones, and now the chips: Motorola calls for another 4000 layoffs. Meanwhile, several PowerBook orders have apparently been held up in customs in Alaska (blame the FDA), and Apple looks for a way to make the iMac new again...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 2857: They're Scaring The Moose (2/12/01)   Attention, all you still-waiting PowerBook G4 customers, who are probably feeling more than a little like characters in a Beckett play by now: we have good news and bad news. The good news is that many of your orders have shipped-- we repeat, your orders have shipped...

  • 2858: The iMac2: "I'll Be Back" (2/12/01)   Heads up, everyone; with new iMacs almost certain to strut their CD-burning stuff at next week's Macworld Expo, it's already time to start thinking about what the less immediate future holds for Apple's cuddly consumer desktop system...

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