Sorry, I just can’t take this lead sentence from page B1 of today’s NY Times:
For much of this decade, the fates of Palm and Motorola were intertwined.The parallel is just plain silly.
- Motorola invented the handheld mobile phone in the 1970s, Handspring (later bought by Palm) shipped its first phone in 2001.
- Motorola has been exporting phones to Japan and Europe since the 1980s, while Palm has always been a North American phenomenon.
- Motorola was late to digital, Palm was always digital.
- Motorola was late to smartphones, Palm was only smartphones.
- Motorola was a radio company, Palm a PDA company.
- At their peak, Motorola made good hardware and so-so software, while Palm had so-so hardware and good software.
- Motorola phones tended to be slim and light while Palm phones were big and clunky.
- Because of its lousy performance, Motorola’s handset division is (someday) being spun out, while Palm sold itself cheap to HP.
Yes, as the NYT reminds us, Motorola hitched its wagon to Android in October 2008, while Palm is pursuing its go-it-alone strategy (now with HP’s money.)
Motorola (corporate) revenues continue to decline, but at least this quarter is profitable, and CEO Sanjay Jha hopes to ship 12-14 million smartphones in 2010 — with smartphones accounting for the majority of handset sales and raising the average selling price. (Almost all of those smartphones have been Android.)
So the explanation is pretty simple:
- An open source operating system (like Android) is the ultimate commodity software: free and available to all firms.
- If software is a commodity, then the only hope to differentiate and gain share is through hardware competencies.
- Motorola has those competencies (like Nokia and the Koreans) but Palm doesn’t.