Motorola set to use Windows Mobile and Android

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Yesterday, in a third quarter earnings call, Motorola's CEO, Sanjay Jha, said that they would be streamlining their OS strategy to concentrate on three platforms: P2K (low end and feature phones), Android (consumer smartphones) and Windows Mobile (business phones). Motorola will no longer use its own LinuxJava (MOTOMAGX) or the Symbian UIQ platform. It also appears that several UIQ phones that are currently in development, which would have hit the market next year, will be abandoned. Read on for more.

Motorola's third quarter net loses were $397 million and its market share has continued to slide. It is now in fourth position for market share with around 7.7% of the market compared to second place and 20% just 2 years ago.

The abandonment of Symbian UIQ is not surprising given that the advent of Symbian Foundation. However Motorola choosing Android over the Symbian Foundaion may raise a few eyebrows. It may be a question of timing, Android is available now, whereas the first release of the Symbian Foundation will not take place until H1 2009; moreover that release will be dominated by Nokia technology. It is likely that a lack of willingness, on the part of US based management, to work with Nokia and its partners in the Symbian Foundation is a contributory factor. In the end it was a choice between working with Nokia and working with a combination of Microsoft and Google. In both instances Motorola would have to rationalise taking a secondary role in directing the course of software strategy.

Anguished business politics have long been a part of Motorola's strategy decisions. Its platform strategy has a more complex history than any other handset manufacturer.

Several UIQ phones that Motorola had under development will likely be cancelled. UIQ's last hurrah will not see the light of day after all. Motorola's investment in UIQ, which seemed like it had a great deal of potential a year ago, is another waste of both financial resources and opportunity.

The abandonment of its own LinuxJava platform (MOTOMAGX) is, in many ways, far more serious. It was originally envisioned as a serious competitor for the likes of S60. Motorola have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the platform over the last five years and to abandon it altogether is a damning indictment of Motorola's ability to deliver software projects and carry out hardware integration with Linux based phones.

Jha stated that a 3G phone using Android would be out by 2009 and mass market handsets would follow by 2010. This seems like an ambitious time table given the lack of pre-integration in the Android platform. Motorola do not have a good track record in implementing new platforms in a timely fashion. Motorola will also have to stand out from other Android handsets (from HTC and others) by differentiating in software and services, an area where is has had little success in recent years.

Windows Mobile is a sensible choice given Motorola existing expertise, its US brand strength and Windows Mobile's success in the enterprise market in the US.

Motorola is also effectively retreating to the US and a few key Asian markets. For the next two years it seems to have little intention to mount a serious challenge in the European market.

These announcements could be considered Motorola's third attempt to reinvent itself and at this point there is no real indicator as to why this attempt will be any more successful than the previous ones. However Motorola still have a powerful brand (in the US at least) and many talented engineers so it would be a mistake to write them off completely.