Motorola's Wyatt: Android offered us a way to 'accelerate our products'

with Christy Wyatt, vice president of software applications and ecosystem for Motorola

As Motorola prepares to unveil its first Android device (or devices) next week in San Francisco, Sue Marek, editor in chief of FierceWireless, spoke with Motorola's Christy Wyatt. As vice president of software applications and ecosystem at Motorola, Wyatt was instrumental in selecting Android as one of the company's main software platforms. In addition, she oversees the company's critical MotoDev developer program. Wyatt was cagey about revealing any specifics about next week's big Android announcement, but she did talk about why Motorola is so bullish on the software platform.

FierceWireless: All eyes are on Motorola right now, and anticipation is high regarding your plans next week to debut your first Android device or devices. What can you tell me about that?

Wyatt: I can't tell you anything. I will be at that event. I wouldn't miss it.

FierceWireless: Developers say they are focusing on apps for RIM's BlackBerry devices and the iPhone. They are interested in Android but don't believe it has a critical mass yet. Is this a challenge for Motorola since it has selected Android as one of its main software platforms?

Wyatt: It's a little bit like watching a horse race. The players move positions quite a bit. It's consistent that we hear a lot of interest in the iPhone because it's a clear path to market. It's a one-door in and one-door out model. There's a total addressable market that is well understood. There's a business model that is well understood. I think that makes it attractive to them.

Two months ago I was hearing exactly what you are saying. But I think recently--in the last month or so--we have been hearing a lot more buzz and seeing a lot more investment in Android. I think Android is making a strong run at No. 2, and I think it has displaced some of the other platforms that we are talking about.

This has happened because developers are business owners and they are looking at a large addressable market. When you look at the upcoming aggregate opportunity across the Android ecosystem it will be significant.

FierceWireless: Why did Motorola decide to put so much effort into Android?

Wyatt: If I take you back to a year and half ago, what we were looking at was about eight different operating systems and a dozen different supported architectures. From a cost perspective, the return on investment, we were finding more and more R&D dollars going into non-visible value for the consumer. When we looked ahead at what end users were going to be expecting, there was pressure to invest higher up in the stack, where end users would see a Motorola differentiated experience. That caused us to say that we need a smaller number of platforms. We haven't said we would be 100 percent on one, but we needed a starting place.

There are a couple of different things that made Android appealing to us. One, it's Linux-based. Our first Linux-based handset went out in 2003 and we have shipped millions of Linux-based devices. We think we have been very proactive in the open source community. I sit on the board of the Linux Foundation. We are comfortable with that model. It gives us the ability to innovate and respond to our customers quickly. And it's a collaborative developer community, which means that you benefit on the investment of the community not just assuming you have to build a platform yourself. It's easy enough to build a platform for a phone. It's very hard to build a platform for 40 phones worldwide.

Google has done a fantastic job in the multimedia framework and being Internet focused. We see the largest growing base of Web-based developers. And they need a platform that started out being Internet focused. When we looked at a lot of platforms available to us we had to think about whether we could engineer them up to meet the challenge or is there something out there that we can use. Android was very new and we did a lot of due diligence and had a lot of help and support from Google, and it's working out very well.

Also a lot of the platforms we looked at (even in the open source world) the ecosystem was struggling to find a consistent channel and rich set of APIs. Android very early on got a lot of enthusiasm from the developer community, and we thought that was something we could invest in and help accelerate our products...Continued

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