Category Archives: motorola

Smartphones jump the shark with Lenovo deal

moto-xNeed more evidence that smartphone prices are about to tank? Look no further than Lenovo’s announcement on Wednesday to buy Motorola from Google for $2.9 billion. While the deal gives the Chinese company its long desired presence in the Western smartphone market, it also represents a looming commoditization. The rule of thumb with Lenovo is: when the company comes knocking, your product is probably about to jump the shark, if it hasn’t already.

Lenovo’s most famous purchase came in 2004, when it announced it was buying IBM’s PC division and ThinkPad brand for $1.7 billion. PCs were already commodified by that point, with prices and profits going nowhere but down. IBM wisely saw the writing on the wall and got out while the getting was… well, not good, but at least doable.

The question everyone was asking was why would anyone want to buy a sinking ship? Lenovo’s executives had a simple answer: they wanted to become China’s first international brand. The profit margins on PCs were shrinking, but everybody still needed them, so what better way to familiarize the world with the Lenovo brand than with a ubiquitous product? Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on January 30, 2014 in Google, IBM, Lenovo, mobile, motorola


Moto X: The best new gadget of 2013

moto-x620When I sat down to think about my 10 favourite gadgets of the year, I found myself hitting a wall – I actually couldn’t think of 10 that I liked all that much.

After a heady few years in which important new gizmos appeared just about every week, 2013 was more of an iterative time bereft of that One Big Thing. I tried to narrow my field down to five, but then figured heck, why cut corners? Why not just go with the one thing I really did like?

There were a few contenders. Obviously, I like the updated iPad Mini, which now has a sharper Retina screen. If it’s a case of what I use most, the Mini wins hands down – it goes everywhere and does everything with me. If it was waterproof, I’d probably use it in the shower. However, it is merely an iterative product that’s a touch better than its predecessor. That’s not enough for it to be my favourite new thing of the year.

I also like the Xbox one and the PlayStation 4 – both new consoles are fun and show a ton of promise. But they’re only as good as the games that are made for them, and so far there aren’t a whole lot of those, which is why I’m hesitant to bestow my Oprah-esque title on them. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on December 17, 2013 in android, apple, Google, motorola


Wireless contracts: an endangered species soon

motorola-x-phoneThe funny thing about Canada finally getting in line with the rest of the developed world in making two-year cellphone contracts the norm rather than three years is that, as per usual, we’re probably still going to end up behind the times. Don’t look now, but one-year contracts are about to become the standard everywhere else.

Speaking at the D11 conference last week, Motorola chief executive Dennis Woodside effectively declared as much by unveiling the Google-owned company’s next smartphone, the Moto X: a high-end smartphone that will be priced significantly less than comparable competitors. Woodside pulled no punches in taking shots at the likes of Samsung and Apple, who make huge profits on devices that are priced at $700 or more.

His money quote: “Those products earn 50-per-cent margins. We don’t necessarily have those constraints. Those [margins] will not persist.”

He went on to say, “One of the areas that we think is really open for Motorola is building high-quality, low-cost devices. The price of a feature phone right now is about $30 on a global basis, the [wholesale] price of a smartphone is $650? That’s not gonna persist.” Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on June 5, 2013 in android, apple, Google, mobile, motorola


Motorola execs talk Google, carriers and Canada

I had a chance to lob some questions at Motorola Mobility CEO Sanjay Jha and Motorola Canada president Michelle Digulla on Tuesday following the announcement of the company’s latest phone, the Droid Razr (just Razr to us foreigners). We discussed a variety of topics, including the company’s impending marriage to Google and new cellphone carriers in Canada. So, with no further ado, here’s a transcript of some of those conversations.

What sort of changes do you anticipate in the merger with Google?

Jha: It’s too early to tell. You guys probably have the same laws in Canada, it’s called gun-jumping laws. You can’t start acting as one company [before you actually merge]. It’s really when the deal closes that you can get together and plan out what you want to do. So we haven’t got engaged in thinking about what strategy we’re going to pursue post-consummation, but I would say the following. Google is a scale company, they care about scale. I have constraints in that I have to meet quarterly numbers, which is a good thing – it’s certainly good discipline – but it’s a bad thing as well because if I wanted to invest, for instance, a $100 million to just make my brand name more accepted for two quarters and in the third quarter I’ll get traction, that’s not an option I would consider without a lot of pull. In Google’s structure, that’s what we could do, that’s more of an option.

So you could become more of a long-term-thinking company?

Jha: That option exists. Again, I don’t know what we will do, I can’t tell you, but that option exists.

The Razr is exclusive to Verizon in the U.S. and Rogers in Canada. Why go the exclusive route and what is the future of that strategy?

Jha: It gets tied pretty closely with two things. One is what technology are they employing. When I say technology it’s not just the radio access – Verizon obviously has CDMA – but we end up having to do so much extra work with carriers porting what we call their carrier-branded services.  There comes a point where you say it’s sort of exclusive anyway, so we might as well work closely and meet their requirements even more fully. In return, we get more marketing dollars [from them] and we both succeed in the market together. That’s how the tradeoff usually works.

By and large, if it’s a device that launches across multiple carriers, the motivation the carriers have to put marketing dollars behind it is not that large. Then you have to say, ‘I’d better be very large so I can put marketing dollars behind it.’ That’s the tradeoff you have to make. Samsung and Apple, because of their scale, can make that tradeoff. Not all of us can make it. Once we get that scale and have that option, we’ll make that tradeoff.

How have carriers treated Android in Canada? There have been conflicting reports that they’ve pushed it or held it back in favour of iPhone and BlackBerry.

Digulla: Android brings a completely new set of requirements so you could say it has a wider price range. You can see devices, and you see this from Motorola, come down to a very low tier up to the very high end with the Razr, so it provides more breadth. You could argue it provides a better ecosystem because it’s open and all of us are building on what’s already there, so there are definitely some advantages from a pricing and capability perspective.

But what sort of marketing push have you seen for Android phones from carriers?

Digulla: The Razr particularly will have a huge push with Rogers. It’ll be part of their “hero” campaign at the beginning of November.

What’s the roadmap for new carriers such as Wind and Mobilicity, who use a similar frequency to T-Mobile in the U.S.? Are you waiting to see what happens with AT&T’s attempted takeover of T-Mobile?

Digulla: I can’t share with you specifics on roadmaps with different carriers, but I do think it’s tied. Having a major AWS-banded U.S. carrier that demands millions of phones will impact the availability of global [devices].


Posted by on October 19, 2011 in Google, mobile, motorola


Motorola’s path forward looks easier than RIM’s

As many had speculated, Motorola has indeed dusted off the old Razr name for its new smartphone, unveiled here in New York Tuesday. In the U.S., where the handset maker has licensing rights with the Star Wars folks, the phone actually combines two of Motorola’s most successful brands – it’s called the Droid Razr. For the rest of the world, including Canada, it’s just the Razr.

The new Razr: super-thin and very light.

If you’re into specification porn, Mobile Syrup has you covered. For our purposes here, suffice it to say that the phone is ridiculously light and thin, yet still sturdy, fast and powerful. I played with one briefly and was amazed at how light it felt in my hand. It’s got a steel core and Kevlar on the outside though, so it’s made not to break. Sadly, as a Motorola representative told me, it’s not strong enough to stop bullets (vests apparently have many layers of Kevlar while the phone only has one).

What I found most interesting during Motorola chief executive Sanjay Jha’s presentation was the mention of how the Razr will be aimed at corporate customers as well as the every-day consumer. The device can accommodate secure enterprise email systems and has remote wipe capabilities, which means it’ll probably pass muster with many businesses’ IT departments.

This has bearing on Canada, particularly BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, which counts business users as its main bread and butter. RIM’s recent woes have been well documented here and elsewhere, but its problem ultimately comes down to this very factor: it is much easier for consumer-facing companies such as Motorola to delve into the business world than it is to go the other way, which is what RIM has been trying and failing to do for some time now.

I asked Jha about this afterward and he agreed to an extent, although he isn’t taking RIM lightly. The BlackBerry maker, which was coincidentally showing off its upcoming BBX operating system at a developer conference in San Francisco, is still a very strong competitor, he said:

There is something at the gut level that resonates with consumers about Android, and we know it because we’ve tried something like three or four OSes. To win in this business, the only learning for me so far is that there is not just one factor that gets you a win. It’s a combination of multiple factors that gets you there. It’s not just cheap, it’s not just the best, you have to hit the appropriate [spots]. They have to do that and it’s work in front of them. Can they do it? Absolutely, it has been done before and it can be done again.

Motorola Canada president Michelle Digulla also acknowledged RIM’s position, but she was a bit more specific in the opportunity for her company:

At the beginning it was the CTOs saying here are the three phones you can pick from or that you can use. That whole dynamic is completely changing. People are like, ‘No, no, no, I’ll pick the phone, you just make it work.’ To be honest, iPhone really pushed the envelope for enterprise people to start doing that. We need to start educating the market about Android for business. It’s an uphill battle, especially in Canada where people are entrenched with RIM, but this is exactly what we need to take hold of.

As I put it on Twitter, Motorola’s hip and cool phones (i.e. the Droid and the original Razr before it) seem to be almost the antithesis of business devices, where staid, sturdy and reliable are the watch words. Motorola could therefore have as much of a tough time getting accepted within companies as RIM is having in the consumer space. The difference, however, is that all the momentum is coming from the much bigger consumer market. It’s obvious which side any handset maker would rather be on.

Motorola will likely benefit greatly in this regard once it is absorbed by Google, a topic that Jha also discussed. More on that in tomorrow’s post.

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Posted by on October 18, 2011 in apple, Google, mobile, motorola, RIM


What sexy name will Motorola use for its new phone?

I’m heading to New York Tuesday morning for the big unveil of Motorola’s next whatsit. The company has put out a teaser that makes it look like the star of the show, which begins at noon Eastern time, will be a new phone. The pictured device is being touted as “thinner, faster, stronger, smarter” and has the tech press salivating.

The big question is over what the phone will be called. Some are speculating it’ll be the Droid Razr, which would unite two of Motorola’s most successful brands ever, while others are saying that the teaser itself has identified it as the Spyder. Either way, me likey the cool names.

There’s also speculation that the Xoom 2, the company’s next tablet, might make an appearance. We’ll see soon enough. Follow me on Twitter starting around 11, where I’ll be posting developments, and check back here later in the afternoon for what will hopefully be a more detailed write-up.

For what it’s worth, the fact that Canadian journalists are being invited to the event also bodes well for Canadian availability of whatever Motorola is unveiling.

Here’s that teaser video I mentioned:


Posted by on October 18, 2011 in mobile, motorola


Is Googorola anti-competitive? Not at all

Google kicked this week off with a bang with a surprise announcement that it was acquiring cellphone maker Motorola for $12.5 billion, a huge move that will boost the search engine company’s employee headcount by 60%. As Google CEO Larry Page explained in a blog post, it’s a defensive move to acquire patents, a particular problem area for the company that I wrote about yesterday.

Patent issues aside, one of the other main aspects many have focused on is that the deal is likely to alienate Google’s other mobile partners. HTC, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and a few others who use Google’s free Android operating system will now find themselves competing directly against the maker of that software. Some are even speculating that the acquisition could become an antitrust issue.

In the case of Google alienating its partners, most pundits have suggested this to be a bad thing. In fact, perhaps it’s something that’s overdue.

Going back to the B.I. era (Before iPhone), the nascent smartphone market belonged to Nokia, Research In Motion and Microsoft, in that order. Four years later, the market is dominated by Android, Apple and RIM, again in that order. If Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Motorola were anywhere in that pre-iPhone mix, it was thanks to the Windows phones they were making. HTC, meanwhile, didn’t even have its own name – it was busy making hardware for other companies, who slapped their own brands on it.

If it wasn’t for Android, it’s likely those companies wouldn’t have any piece of today’s smartphone market. Google came along and gave them a free operating system, which liberated them from paying big licensing dollars to Microsoft, and built the only app market besides Apple’s that matters. Samsung, HTC and the rest have literally gotten a free ride.

The result is that Android phones are the market leader, while Android tablets are also making some headway against Apple. The other result, however, is that all the Android devices are the same. Is an HTC Android phone really different from a Motorola Android phone? Nope. They’re pretty much interchangeable.

Google also benefited in a big way from its partners, who helped build Android’s critical mass. But now, because of the unsavoury patent situation Google finds itself in, the search company is being forced to look out for number one. When it comes to war, sometimes you have to leave your allies behind in order to survive, or else they’ll do it to you. That’s pretty much what happened to Microsoft in the mobile realm.

Google says it will continue to freely license Android to Samsung et al, but if Apple and RIM (to some extent) have shown the world anything, good things happen when one company builds its own hardware and software. Competing with an integrated Google in building Android phones is therefore going to be tough for its former partners. The free ride for Android makers is therefore over.

But that’s not an antitrust issue. Samsung, HTC and the rest have plenty of options available. They can keep making Android devices, an option that would force them to put their thinking caps on and create better gadgets than Google itself. They can license the Windows operating system from Microsoft or they can talk to HP about using webOS, something that company is apparently interested in doing. Or, in the unlikeliest of scenarios, they can create their own, hopefully better OS. Simply put, there’s nothing forcing them to use Android, which would probably be a condition for antitrust.

Has Google stabbed its partners in the back? Absolutely, albeit by necessity. But is Google being anti-competitive? It’s hard to see how.

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Posted by on August 16, 2011 in apple, Google, microsoft, mobile, motorola


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