@ CES: Unprofitable Motorola Says It Has to Be Different To Make Money

Why do Android phone makers keep pumping out slightly different versions of smartphones with custom user interfaces that frustrate developers to no end? Because they have to, according to Motorola (NYSE: MMI) CEO Sanjay Jha.

In an interview with The Verge, Jha said “Verizon and AT&T (NYSE: T) don’t want seven stock (Android 4.0) devices on their shelves,” referring to “stock” as “not cluttered with custom skins like Motoblur and TouchWiz.” No matter what Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Chairman Eric Schmidt thinks, Android’s fragmentation problems stem from the problems that crop up when application developers have to support multiple user interfaces on top of the different screen sizes and hardware configurations that are also part and parcel of the Android world.

The problem is that wireless carriers want to have as many different kinds of phones as possible to appeal to a wide variety of customers but they also want to be able to promise those customers they can get apps for their phones. This leads to tons of generic Android phones at lower price points that promise the Android experience but of the dozens and dozens of Android phones that are available at carriers, only five or six are truly standout devices. Yet Android’s market share numbers include all those versions.

Jha said he “has to make money” in defending Motorola’s quest to differentiate itself from Samsung and HTC, which is pretty funny considering Motorola doesn’t make any money. But Jha did signal that Motorola is going take a cue from Google, which is angling to buy the company, by paring down in order to focus on doing fewer things better.