Thursday, April 30, 2009

Motorola, Android and Verizon

Rumors this week were that Motorola will release its first Android phone (“Calgary”) this quarter on Verizon. However, today Motorola handset CEO Sanjay Jha said that the phones won’t happen until the third calendar quarter (MOT’s Q4). As PC magazine reports:

"With Android we believe we can enable differentiated consumer experience and applications, with enhanced integration of messaging and social networking applications," Jha said during a conference call with analysts announcing the company's second-quarter earnings. "We also intend to offer a range of devices by delivering those capabilities in both the high tier and the mid tier ... [and] we will deliver meaningful products in the fourth quarter."

The Android lineup will include "entry level data devices," Jha said. "I like to think of rich, data-enabled devices which have capabilities more than SMS. ... One of the things that I particularly like about the Android platform is the very good mobile Internet experience ... I also think multimedia is important."
The Android phones "will launch with multiple carriers and not just in North America," although PC Mag notes that the US 57% of Motorola’s (declining) cellphone sales.

The timing of the next phones is a subject of intense speculation. The performance of the HTC G1 has been disappointing, which is causing many to hold off on buying the first Android phone in hopes of buying the next one. I am surprised by the amount of recent TV advertising for the G1, as well as the aggressive promotion on campus of a G1 event this weekend at Valley Fair.

However, the release of the new phones appears to be waiting on solving the performance issues. Qualcomm appears to be at the center of the solution, so perhaps (former Qualcomm COO) Jha has good insight as to how long this performance optimization is going to take.

The reports imply that Android will be used by Motorola for more than just smartphones. Motorola is a consumer brand with a relatively small presence in smartphones.

I will be very curious to see what Verizon’s smartphone strategy turns out to be. It won an exclusive on the first touchscreen BlackBerry, it’s making noises about a 2010 iPhone, and obviously will have some sort of Android phone, but nothing yet is appears to be a smash hit. Its largest rival, AT&T, is adding millions of customers using its iPhone exclusive, although it still sells BlackBerries, but implied it that it won’t use both Android and Symbian.

The smaller carriers have simpler strategies: Sprint is emphasizing the new Palm, and T-Mobile seems to be using both Android and Symbian.

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