Saturday, December 1, 2007

End of an oxymoron

Of three doctoral students visiting SJSU to apply for our strategy job, two have presented talks about Motorola: one on the entry of a Motorola battery division into China, and the other on corporate entrepreneurship at Motorola (their internal incubator).

For these two Motorola job talks, at least one wrote in the corresponding research paper

under the leadership of Motorola CEO Ed Zander …
to which I asked “Isn’t that an oxymoron?” On Friday, investors finally forced an end to the oxymoron, i.e. Zander’s four years of leadership in Schaumberg.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that Zander got a bad hand, following in the footsteps of failing nepotism, er, family control and many years of drift in the industry they created (handheld cellphones). But still, in drafting passed-over former Sun Microsystems executives, Google got the better deal. (Perversely, Wikipedia didn’t even list the Sun affiliation of the current Google CEO, so I had to add it).

Will Motorola be able to turn it around? I sure hope so. I got to know their history and their impact upon both U.S. and telecom innovation when researching my dissertation in the late 1990s. It is tragic to see how far they’ve fallen. But, on the other hand, I thought HP had been destroyed forever (through a combination of acts of omission and commission) but Mark Hurd seems determined to prove me wrong.

One last Motorola tidbit. At one point, Motorola had a project to port Skype to its phones. The project was a technical success, but for some reason none of the operators wanted to buy a phone with Skype pre-installed so the project was cancelled. To quote the former project manager (via our visiting scholar who shall remain nameless):
“I went to our own management and they said, no way in hell would we let you do this because our customers would kill us. The operators are fighting tooth and nail from becoming a bit pipe. Imagine one megabye of code, which is what Skype is, destroying a multibillion dollar industry. I was on one call with an operator and he says, ‘We're going to save you time and money. Don't develop Skype.’ ”

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