The trick up Motorola's sleeve

Don't pull the plug on Motorola just yet. The struggling handset maker showed real signs of new life last week at Linuxworld, introducing a next-generation mobile Linux platform dubbed MotoMagx and pledging "new levels of openness, flexibility and support for third-party applications on Motorola mobile devices." According to Motorola, current plans call for implementing mobile Linux across 60 percent of its handset portfolio over the next few years, beginning with the music-optimized Motorokr Z6 and the Motorola RAZR2 V8, the latter its first Linux-based device for the North American market.

Motorola is keeping one foot squarely planted on its traditional Java ME platform even as it dips its toe deeper into the mobile Linux waters: At present, MotoMagx supports only applications developed in Java, although new WebUI and native Linux application environments will be introduced in upcoming releases. Further embracing the third-party esprit de corps, Motorola also announced a global series of MOTODEV Summits, one-day exclusive events extending to select developers technical expertise, practical advice, guidance and even advance previews of next-gen devices, platforms and technologies (but stopping just short of promising homemade Rice Krispies treats).

MotoMagx may seem like a tentative move, but at least it's something--the journey of a thousand miles beginning with a single step and all that. Motorola has struggled to innovate from within, so now it must look to recharge its handset business from without. Even if Motorola ends the journey in the ditch, at least it veered away from the middle of the road. -Jason