Motorola investors have reason to believe the Android promise

It appears that Motorola investors are beginning to have faith that the company can turn its struggling handset division around by capitalizing on the Android platform.

After hitting a nearly all-time low of $2.98 per share at the start of March, Motorola's stock has climbed to $6.15 per share. This is despite the fact that the vendor's handset shipments in the first quarter of this year were almost half that of the year-ago quarter. Granted the entire handset industry has softened, but most competitors have not seen decreases that dramatic.

Nevertheless, Motorola executives have been working to reassure shareholders that Android will be the savior. Motorola is planning to introduce several mid- and high-end Android devices by the end of the year, just in time for Christmas.

Motorola's handset division has had many near-death experiences since 2007, and failing to capitalize on the Android platform as promised could finally be the death knell for the company. If history is any indication though, this could be one of the greatest comebacks in the mobile industry.

Remember the StarTac in the late 1990s? The first clam-shell wearable phone the industry had ever seen reinvigorated Motorola's sales after it lost market share to Nokia when it failed to transition from analog to digital technology fast enough.

However, Motorola rode the StarTac train too long as competitors came out with the same design and began hitting the market with more feature-rich phones. By 2003, Motorola was missing in action again when it came to competing with rivals with features that were resonating with customers, such as phones with embedded cameras.

Then in 2005, the vendor hit a home run with the Razr, which fueled wild growth in 2005 and 2006. That device's form factor represented a major paradigm shift for the entire handset market. But the vendor again rode the Razr train too long. It attempted to follow on with models like the Motorola Q and the Krzr, but these gadgets just didn't catch on with consumers.

Today, Apple's iPhone is the new Razr, and Motorola is now challenged to one-up that or replicate that experience on a host of other devices (Motorola is correctly focusing on several devices rather than that one-hit wonder of the past). Android is supposed to be the most capable mobile Web platform than anything other the iPhone. Motorola could very well trump other vendors by flooding the market with Android-based devices and taking a big chunk of market share in that realm in both the mid- and high-end market. Operators, after all, are looking for the next iPhone.

As it stands now, the next new Android devices are coming from Samsung, HTC and Huawei, and each is selling devices in specific markets, such as Western Europe and China. Nokia isn't playing in the Android market at all at this point.

Investors may very well have a reason to believe that Motorola management is right about Android. --Lynnette

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