Motorola announced further job cuts this week. Another 74 jobs lost might not seem much compared to the 7,500 that have gone since October. But these jobs have been cut in Libertyville, the home of Motorolas mobile devices unit. And that facility has lost 500 jobs already.
What’s telling about it?
I was pondering yesterday whether Motorola is starting a shift away from being a mobile handset manufacturer. It is possible. It might even be the best way to boost the company. It hasn’t really had a hit on it’s hands since the RAZR. That was a great phone, but it predated the smartphone explosion and Motorola haven’t done anything spectacular since then. Back when clam-shell phones were still a fresh idea, Motorola were king of the hill. The StarTAC was an immense success back in the day – the day being 1996. But now, chatting with mobile journos at MWC this year, the general attitude to Motorola was to shrug and say “well, they’re pretty much irrelevant now.”
Above: (l to r) the 1996 StarTAC, the 2005 RAZR and this years A3100
In the last few months Motorola has been making clear moves towards being a technology provider. It has launched a huge 4G intiative, as well as recently throwing it’s NFC patents into an open licensing program. That’s not to say they haven’t been making phones. The Evoke was a decent, if extremely basic, touchscreen. There have been a bunch of rumours about an Android device.
Motorola’s offerings to the smartphone world have been functional, but uninspiring. The Q was a “Blackberry Killer” that didn’t even scratch Blackberry. This yearsMOTOSURF A3100 barely caused a ripple at launch. If your phones are increasingly being forgotten about, and you’re not keeping pace in the new market, wouldn’t you think about trying a different direction? Motorola has strongly stated it’s opinion that there are too many platforms. It has been pushing for consolidation and mobile convergence. A lot of people agree that’s the future of the industry, and being in the centre of that would not be a bad place to be.
Motorola has a long history of being innovative and creative in the mobile market, and of then not getting the benefit from that innovation. Others follow in their footsteps and pick up the glory with more commercial implementations of Motorola ideas. I reckon it’s time for Motorola to get into innovation, convergence and technology full-time. The mobile device market is a fickle mistress, and times have left Motorola behind.