Editor's Corner

The Power of Design

As competition in the global phone market intensifies, the power of handset design has emerged as one of the key differentiators for the wireless industry. A prime example: Motorola. Three years ago, Motorola was a company in decline. Motorola's phones were criticized as lackluster and the company was losing market share to Nokia and Samsung. Many insiders were ready to write the long-time wireless giant off for good.

Enter CEO Ed Zander. Zander shook things up at Motorola and began pushing innovation. The biggest success story under Zander's tenure at Motorola has to be the Razr. The Razr helped rejuvinate Motorola's handset business, and more importantly, the company's image with the public. The Razr single-handly took the clamshell form factor from convenient middle-of-the-road to cutting-edge chic. While the Razr did not single-handedly save Motorola -- the company had orchestrated an impressive turnaround even before this phone hit the market -- it demonstrates the power of design in the wireless industry.

Another example: Apple's iPod. Sure, the iPod is a glorified MP3 player. But the power of the device's design and user interface have made it a market-defining phenomenon. While other MP3 players have met with modest success, the iPod and iTunes have the mobile music market a reality.

There is a truth in these examples that can help the smaller handset makers struggling to gain market share against the big three. If a company can create a compelling form factor -- no matter how big or small the firm or unproven the concept -- they have a chance to not only survive but thrive. Remember, three years ago Motorola was on the way out and the iPod was far from a household word. With a well-designed device, any upstart can compete against the big guys -- and any dying dinosaur can also stop their own extinction. - Stephen