Thursday, September 10, 2009

First shoe on Motorola's Android strategy

Motorola today announced their first Android phone, to be available in time for Christmas on the Android T-Mobile network. As a piece of hardware, the Motorola Cliq is a touchscreen with slide-out keyboard. This is the same phone as the previous leaked Motorola “Morrison” model.

Motorola’s main claim to fame (other than the brand and distribution) is Motoblur, a new skin that integrates social networks, contact management and email similar to Synergy under Palm webOS.

There are two curious things about the announcement. The first is starting with T-Mobile, the smallest and least important of the major US operators, and the one that has all the installed based of Android phones. Aren’t there Sprint, Verizon or AT&T users that also want Android? (Supposedly the Motorola Sholes will be available on Android later this year).

The second curious thing is Motoblur, which is not quite a GUI but more than an application. Obviously it’s an attempt to create differentiation within Android (and perhaps fix some of its usability problems). Is it also an attempt to create switching costs between Motorola and other Android handset vendors? If not, then when a user drops his Cliq in the pool he’s just as likely to buy an HTC or Samsung as a Motorola.

If Motoblur is about switching costs, then Motorola will have to commit to offering a family of Motoblur phones over the next few years -- and that Motorola hopes that such phones will be a big part of its business.

This sort of semi-platform strategy strikes me as neither fish nor fowl. Motorola doesn’t have its own smartphone platform, but it wants some of the benefits of doing so. Sony Ericsson and Nokia tried this with custom GUIs on Symbian and eventually gave up, although the cost of maintaining a full GUI would have to be more than maintaining what appears to be a grouping of applications (or an integrated app suite) on Motoblur.

1 comment:

jessica magert said...

I wanted to replace my underpowered G1 with this one, but it appears that it's no different than the G1 (maybe some more RAM and ROM, but that's about it I guess!) :'(