Motorola: Hits come but every four years

By Brian Dolan

CHICAGO--There were surprisingly few occasions that Apple's iPhone entered the discussion at Motorola’s Research Experience Day yesterday in Schaumburg, Ill. But, then again, there was no need to point to the obvious.

In his closing remarks, COO Greg Brown pointed to Motorola’s Crystal Talk technology and use of haptics in the RAZR2, its intuitive Chinese character touch screen application Ming and its various video-based social networking applications as evidence of the handset maker's multifaceted approach to the handset market.

"We know very intuitively that we don't want to be a one hit wonder," Brown said. "We want a steady drumbeat of devices."

While Motorola did not commercially launch or publicly unveil any devices at the Research Experience day yesterday, it's clear from the peak behind the curtain that the company really isn't pursuing a one-hit wonder strategy.

Jim Wicks, Motorola’s corporate vice president of consumer experience design, who left Sony six years ago to join Motorola, said there have been two watershed moments for handset makers during his six years at Motorola: The launch of the RAZR and the launch of the iPhone.

"Ever since [the RAZR] launched everybody has been chasing it from a physical, form factor perspective. Four years or so later, I think a similar provocation has come from Apple and the iPhone," Wicks said. "This time, though, it's not about the hardware at all, it's the software... That phone has a highly cinematic user interface that makes for a very provocative device. It's great for the industry, because it's great for consumers." Wicks added that the iPhone has probably shown the industry that touch screen phones can work in North America and Europe, which goes against what was previously thought.

Wicks believes that the market would not be receptive to a potential one-hit wonder right now and Motorola is wise to bide their time. “You have to make sure, as company and group, you ready yourself to drive the market or be ahead of it.”