** As published in RCR Wireless News ** SAN FRANCISCO – The spark that led Motorola Inc. Co-CEO Sanjay Jha to reinvigorate his company’s relationship with Google Inc. was similar to two drunks finding each other in a bar, or at least that is what Jha half-jokingly explained at this week’s Mobilize conference in San Francisco. As was widely expected, Jha took the stage to announce Motorola’s plan for a new lineup of devices that run on Google’s Android operating system.
The first device out of the gate will be the Motorola Cliq, a decidedly innovative first step for the fledgling handset maker, which has been looking for cures from the years-long hangover it brought on following its incredible success with the Razr. Motorola, like many of its competitors, has fallen in and out of the good graces of the mobile space before, and this is surely the boldest step the company has taken to reverse that latest downward trend in years. At minimum, Jha has put his stamp on Motorola’s future, little more than a year after joining the company, by anchoring its upcoming device releases to the Android OS.
Blurring the lines that separate us all Motorola didn’t just grab the ready-to-go Android OS to build a new device strategy around. It went a little further, and it’s likely to embolden the company’s position. Indeed, Jha began his keynote by detailing MotoBlur, a new widget based add-on to the Android platform that aims to integrate what consumers want most from their mobile phones directly on the device. MotoBlur embeds everything from social networking sites, messaging, events and more via the cloud – in this case Motorola’s servers that will store whatever information users want to gain greater access to on their phone. With MotoBlur there is no need for opening and closing of apps as every function is integrated into the corners of the device, Jha explained. Social networking is a large component of MotoBlur. Sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace have significantly changed the way people communicate over the past several years, Jha said. Around half of all mobile Internet traffic is driven by social networking sites today, he added, and it’s only going to grow from there. MotoBlur enables users to focus on what people have to say regardless of where they want to say it from. Status and mood updates, tweets, e-mails, text and other messaging becomes integrated in a single screen with MotoBlur. Contacts, feeds and photos are all brought into a single fold as well. If a user decides to reply to a status update, but would rather send that contact an SMS, for example, it’s all available with a flick of their finger on the screen. “Nothing could be much easier than this,” Jha said. “We’re taking Motoblur global. We will be introducing many more devices that take advantage of this in 2010. We really believe that Motoblur is going to be a differentiator for us.” By utilizing Motorola’s servers for the MotoBlur technology users can access information about their device on an online portal, including the ability to locate their device via GPS if it’s stolen and remotely wipe the device. Regardless, that information stays secure, Jha ensured the audience, and once a replacement device is purchased, everything users previously enjoyed on their phone will be waiting and ready for them. Clicking heels for a rebound Once matters of how the company planned to customize its Android plans, Motorola unmasked its first device the Cliq, which would be available exclusively domestically through T-Mobile USA Inc. (A safe choice as the carrier was the first to launch an Android-powered device in the U.S. with HTC Corp.’s G1 last year and recently followed that up with the myTouch 3G.) “The Cliq and MotoBlur is the start in the next chapter of Android,” said T-Mobile USA’s CTO Cole Brodman. Brodman said T-Mobile USA is particularly excited about Android because of the opportunity it gives device makers and carriers to customize the platform to better suit the needs of their customers. T-Mobile USA is expected to be joined in the Android-selling business next month as Sprint Nextel Corp. recently announced plans to launch the HTC Hero running its own customized version of Google’s OS. The Motorola Cliq will come in two colors and is set to be released in time for the all-important holiday shopping season. No further details were given about a specific launch date, but T-Mobile USA expects the Cliq to be one of their hottest selling devices in the fourth quarter. The device will also be sold under the somehow even more ridiculous Dext name outside the U.S. Many of the devices specs are in line with the latest smartphones: A slide-out keyboard, Wi-Fi, a 5-megapixel camera with auto-focus and video, 24 frame-per-second video streaming, a 3.5mm headphone jack, numerous connections to social networking sites and, of course, T-Mobile USA’s unique flavor of 3G to leverage high-speed mobile data. The Cliq, like other devices that run on Android, will also have what Jha called the “best in class HTML browser from Google.” The Motorola-Google vision for mobile Following the device/OS announcement, Jha sat down with Andy Rubin, VP of engineering at Google, and Om Malik, founder of The GigaOM Network, for a a brief discussion about their vision for mobile going forward. “I see the smartphone as the future of consumer computing,” Jha said. “I can’t imagine that in five to seven years time that people don’t view this as their primary computing device. Everything is moving towards computing becoming mobile. It must fit in your pocket and if it fits in your pocket, people will carry it with them all the time.” When asked if marrying location, social networking and other media will be the future of all smartphones, Rubin highlighted the MotoBlur ecosystem as an opportunity for primarily web-based services to gain a stronger foothold in the mobile environment without requiring much work on their end. “I think we have to solve problems. We have to make people’s lives easier,” Jha added. Concluding on that note, he pointed to context awareness as incredibly important feature going forward. Because of that, he believes a great deal of innovation in the mobile space will be pegged around that need and opportunity.