Listen to this article
Motorola delivered its answer to critics worried about the lack of advanced 3G and multimedia handsets in its current product portfolio Tuesday with a slew of new mobile phones that Ed Zander, Motorola’s chief executive, described as “a new start” for the struggling US-based mobile phone maker.
Investors and analysts have been concerned that Motorola lacked blockbuster products to replace the ageing flagship Razr phone, and that the US mobile phone maker has been slower than rivals including Nokia, the world’s biggest mobile phone maker, to develop 3G handsets capable of delivering advanced services such as full motion video over the latest networks.
Tuesday Mr Zander, who last week beat back a proxy bid for a board seat from Carl Icahn, the billionaire Wall Street investor, emphasised that the new handsets represented “just the beginning” of a revitalised Motorola product portfolio aimed at delivering “the ultimate mobile experience” to consumers and business users.
The handsets include a new 3G version of the Razr family called the Razr2. Other new handsets include the Moto Z8, a next generation multimedia phone, the Rokr Z6 handset optimised for music, a new version of the company’s BlackBerry-style Moto Q and the W-Series of low-cost mobile phones designed to enable Motorola to compete more effectively in the mass market against its rivals.
While the Motorola chief lauded the new products, in an interview following the New York launch event he also cautioned that there was still much to do to get Motorola, which lost $181m in the first quarter after its previous market strategy fell apart, back on track.
“Today is a start, but I do not want to oversell it,” he said, “we have to get the momentum going again.” Nevertheless he also stressed that he is determined to succeed. “We are in mobile phones for the long term and it’s a great business to be in,” he said.
Mr Zander also brushed aside suggestions that he is under growing pressure to turn the business round quickly. “First we need to get the products right,” he said. “If we get the product right then everything else takes care of itself.”
Asked if, as some analysts have suggested, there is “a clock ticking” for him as chief executive he smiled and said, “all anyone can do is the best job they can”.
Mr Zander was forced to rethink Motorola’s strategy after a price war and plunging margins hit profits and alarmed investors. Since then he has refocused the business to emphasise profitable growth rather than market share gains, cut costs and promised to return the mobile phone unit to profitability by the fourth quarter.
The updated product portfolio, which emphasises what Motorola terms “the user experience” rather than a particular style or form factor, represents a key step in this turnround strategy.
Among the new products, the Razr2 which will launch in July, will probably be the most closely watched. It is designed to be “stronger, slimmer, smarter but simpler” than its predecessors and is targeted at consumers and business people who primarily need a stylish voice handset.
Some Razr2 models will feature Motorola’s new Linux/Java operating system and all will come with Motorola’s CrystalTalk technology designed to make call quality better, particularly in noisy environments.
Most of the new phones will be launched over the next few months with many of them scheduled for release in Europe first.