Moto Rising


So, wow! Motorola's really turning around, hey? Not only are they finally producing good looking, functional handsets again, but have been doing a good job supporting open platforms for developers like their 3G Symbian phone and the Java-packed i730 from boost, and now that they've caught up to the competition they're pushing ahead with today's announcements of innovative new products like the RAZR V3 and integration with Apple's music store.

Let me say again. Wow!

I've bashed on Moto pretty fiercely here before as their handset strategies in the past made no sense to me as a developer or business person. All the OSes, uninspired handsets, horrible UIs and random business decisions (selling Starfish?) etc. drove me nuts - especially from a company that seemed to really get it not too long ago. I've always mentioned how I'd love to see Motorola succeed, if for no other reason than for national pride. Motorola is a premier American Mobile company like Qualcomm and I always thought it was a shame that they were struggling.

Now it seems that Moto is finally getting its act together and it seems to be due to Ed Zander. I don't know much about him, but checking out this video of last night's webcast he seems like an intelligent, affable, entertaining guy who gets it. And let's face it, if you can get Steve Jobs to give up a few of the keys to the iTunes castle, you've got to be a pretty damn good business person as well. (Man, I wonder what sort of dirt Ed's got on Steve?) There's already been some analysis and predictions of greater cooperation in the future, but I'm just blown away. I would've been blown away if Moto had announced *any* music service integration, but iTunes? Wild.

I have to say I really like the direction that Motorola is going in general. The v400 and v600 are very cool and functional and lately Motorola hasn't been afraid to make phones chock full of functionality like 3G, MIDP 2.0, Bluetooth, Camera and Video, and now even WiFi ("Seamless Mobility"). And the new RAZR V3? That is a *truly* lustworthy phone. Motorola has even updated their home page to give proper focus to their mobile phones as well - the last time I checked it was a mind-numbing menu of corporate products. They're definitely getting their stuff together.

As a developer, however, I just wish their long-term strategy was a little clearer. And, oh god, that user interface... I own an i730 and the A845 and both are frustratingly difficult to use, for little reason. The brief time I've played with the v400 seems a little nicer, but it's still miles behind the functionality and ease of use of a Series 60 phone. Moto needs a better standard UI, it's as simple as that. The tech is there, the innovation is coming back, they just need a standard OS and UI to wrap it around. This is going to be *really* important as 3G becomes commonplace. The thing about the A845 that frustrates me most is I have the network speed of a DSL modem, yet the OS and UI are back in the days of DOS. Even though when I go back to my Nokia I'm stuck on GPRS again (which sucks in comparision to 3G), it's still the preferable choice because of S60's advanced functionality and ease of use. It's really that important.

Moto's handset OS strategy still confuses and disapoints me. It seems with every new phone that Microsoft Windows CE (and variations) is becoming Moto's long-term high-end OS choice and the other options (Symbian, Java, Linux) are increasingly becoming targeted - either to lower power phones or niche-markets. Giving Microsoft another market is annoying. Hopefully Zander realizes how much value he is giving away by doing these deals with the devil and scales back those sorts of devices.

Regardless, it's nice to see Moto getting it together. They are a pioneer in mobile technologies, and it'd be nice to see them retain their status as a leader in mobility as we go forward. At the end of the presentation, Zander pulled out Moto's first cellphone from 1984 weighing in at 2 lbs, 13" and cost almost $4,000. Then he showed the MicroTac from 1989 and the StarTac from 1996 before pulling out the RAZR V3 from an *envelope*. It was an effective way to show Motorola's long history of innovation in the mobile space (remember Gordon Gecko talking on the beach? And who *didn't* want a Star*Tac?), and also show that they're back on track again heading into the future.

Very cool stuff.


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