Google is about to either change the smartphone game, or suffer its highest-profile failure ever.
Enter the Moto X. Google hopes this phone, officially unveiled Thursday, will reboot the Motorola brand along with the namesake company it bought a year and a half ago. But the tech giant faces both long odds and a lot of questions about what its intentions in the smartphone market really are.
Several details about the mystery Moto X have leaked—most significantly from Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, who took the liberty of offering a peek at the Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, last month. Rumor has it Moto X will respond to voice commands without the user having to even touch it. And in a first for the industry, the smartphone will be assembled in the United States, in a Flextronics factory outside Fort Worth, Texas.
The problem, though, is that Moto X is destined to be a costly gamble for Google—whether it strikes a chord with consumers or not. That's because from smartphones to their tablet cousins, the mobile market has high stakes. And lately some impressive companies have been losing.
Take Microsoft, for example. Its most committed partner in smartphones, Nokia, is lucky to eke out a profitable quarter at all these days, and Microsoft earlier this week said it will take a $900 million write-down for Surface tablets it couldn't sell.
(Read more: Microsoft losing money on Surface tablets)
BlackBerry was king of the smartphone market (and arguably the planet's fastest-growing company) as recently as four years ago. Now its latest BlackBerry 10 phones are slow to catch on with consumers, moving just 2.7 million units last quarter; the stock is deflating; and analysts are buzzing about its demise again.