Google, at 15, Perfects Search for the Next Big Thing

In a vast, fluorescent-lit facility, rows of workers in white, pink and some blue smocks stand at workstations and snap color-splashed backs onto mobile phones. Then the handsets move down the line, as an occasional cheer erupts from one of the work teams that meet daily quotas.

High-tech assembly lines such as these are typically seen in places like Burma or Beijing. But this facility -- a vast space larger than two Costco warehouses -- sits in an industrial zone in this Texas city. And the workers, mostly Americans, are making history: assembling the first smartphones produced on U.S. soil for Google.

The phones are Motorola's Moto X brand, Google's latest high-stakes gamble and a first step in returning high-tech assembly jobs to the USA, say executives at Google and Motorola, which the tech giant owns.

"Google is a place where we take bets," Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said recently to a gathering of workers and journalists at the facility. "This is a bet we're taking on America, on Texas, on this incredible workforce assembled here. ... We think this is a very, very safe bet."

He added: "This is the first of a series of steps that are going to change the perception of the United States as a manufacturing hub. ... It's historic. And it's changing America."

Whether the Moto X facility sparks a resurgence in U.S.-based manufacturing remains to be seen. But it's clear the smartphone facility is the latest high-stakes gamble in what could be called the tech industry's Teflon company.

Google, which turns 15 on Friday, has become ubiquitous in the lives of millions of Americans -- from e-mail and maps to searches, documents and self-driving cars. Google-owned YouTube has become the planet's biggest video site, and its Android is the dominant mobile phone operating system, with 80% market share....

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