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Hard To Believe But Motorola Is Now A Software Company | mocoNews September 13, 2009

Posted by hruf in Mobile & Gadgets.
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Motorola CLIQ with MOTOBLURMotorola’s biggest success to date was when it released the thinnest and sexiest device the world had seen. Since then, the handset-maker has struggled to produce anything like it.

Yesterday, everyone was prepared to see Motorola’s latest form factor that would bring it back from the brink. Instead, what we got was an announcement about an innovative new user interface, or skin, that runs on top of the Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Android operating system. In fact, the big unveiling h ad little to do with the hardware, and in many ways, the upcoming CLIQ phone looks like any smartphone with a slide-out Qwerty keyboard. The interesting stuff is the Blur technology running under the hood.

This marks a huge cultural shift for the company, which in the past has always been driven by hardware design. While we didn’t get the entire story, the picture we gleaned during yesterday’s announcement and during a hands-on demo showed that much of transformation had to do with new Motorola (NYSE: MOT) management—and leveraging assets the company already had.

When Sanjay Jha was appointed CEO of mobile devices, he fast tracked a project being worked on by former employees from Good Technology, an enterprise email service that Motorola acquired, and then sold off in February. So, while other divisions back in Illinois were slashing staff, the Sunnyvale office was quietly picking up employees from Apple and Google in what has become a long two an d a half year process to get to market. Rick Osterloh, Motorola’s VP of Product Development for Android Products, couldn’t help but talk about the project, which had been kept under tight wraps for the past year so well. He said it originated with Jha, who was interested in what the former Good employees were working on. “He liked what he saw and he gave it resources.”

Jha explained the importance of BLUR to GigaOm’s Om Malik at Mobilize and how it compares to Apple’s iPhone and RIM’s BlackBerry. He said the platform melds Apple’s idea of having access to tons of applications with BlackBerry’s niche of integrating the apps—like email—deeply into the phone. Together, they have the apps and the integration: “The iPhone has one, BlackBerry has the other, but we have combined them in a meaningful way for social networking.”

Essentially, the BLUR technology enables users to get all of their messages, status updates and other social networking components pushed to them. Motorola’s director of product marketing Dan Rudolph told me during a demo at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art that in order to accomplish this, there’s a lot of server-side technologies playing a role. All of the messages are compressed and then sent to the device. The process should help save on bandwidth and battery life, while the consumer will have all the information without having to go out and retrieve it.

Osterloh said the original idea stretches back as far as 2007 when Facebook and MySpace were just taking off. “We had all these people from Good…we thought we could really solve something.” He said the two keys were that messaging services on devices had gotten complicated. (Users had multiple email addresses and also SMS and MMS.) The other thing they looked at was making a consumer-friendly service that would be used by people who didn’t have support from an IT staff at work. “We redid everything. It was focused on busines s and this is 100 percent focused on the consumer.”

Some of the key services include an online portal, where users could log in and manage their device. If it’s lost, they can ping it and see where it’s located on a map. If it’s been stolen, they can wipe off all of their information and data. Likewise, if you get a new phone, all you would have to do is re-enter a BLUR user name and password and all of the consumer’s settings and preferences would be restored from the wallpaper to which widgets it has on the home screen—a significant time saver. Osterloh: “There was a big hole between what was happening with applications and what was happening with services on the BlackBerry. We see that there’s a need for both…The strategic part is the BLUR part.”

Motorola’s strong software platform may have increased its chances of making a comeb ack. But form factor is important, too. And, so far, it’s something that’s been neglected on the Google Android platform. To date, most of the devices are bulky, and while some have gotten sleeker, nothing still compares to the iPhone. Motorola’s new CLIQ also falls into this category. While solid and full of the latest hardware, it too is large and strays from Moto’s design background. INQ Mobile’s CEO Frank Meehan announced yesterday that his company was going to start building phones on Google Android’s OS, but pointed to one of the challenges with the platform: “Currently, And roid phones on networks that are selling against the iPhone have not performed well. You need to get the experience better.”

So far, Motorola has announced that its first handsets will be sold via T-Mobile in the U.S. and also Orange, Telefonica (NYSE: TEF) and America Movil. How will it do? We’ll have to wait and see.

Photo: Motorola

via Hard To Believe But Motorola Is Now A Software Company | mocoNews.



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