Moto's Zander: Global Mobile... the net will follow us (instead of vice-versa)

Summary:Here at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in San Francisco, Motorola CEO Ed Zander took center stage to, among other things, talk about his company's new smartphone (a term he refrains from using himself to describe the device): the Motorola Q.  Zander admitted to the largely enterprise audience that Motorola is struggling with how to position the Q.

Here at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in San Francisco, Motorola CEO Ed Zander took center stage to, among other things, talk about his company's new smartphone (a term he refrains from using himself to describe the device): the Motorola Q.  Zander admitted to the largely enterprise audience that Motorola is struggling with how to position the Q.  As a phone, a megapixel camera, a mobile video and music player (the best mobile video player on the market for its size according to Zander) and a device that, according to him, is soon to be more tightly integrated into Web-based services like MyYahoo!, The competing DRM technologies still create barriers to the seamless world Zander envisions. Zander knows the Q could easily be positioned as the single converged device that consumers take with them in place of a separate phone, MP3 player, and low-end digital camera.  On the other hand, with its mobile worker capabilities (largely based on the mobile office capabilties of the Windows Mobile 5.0 Smartphone operating system on which it's based), the Q is highly relevant to enterprises as well.

The "performance," otherwise referred to by Gartner as a Mastermind Session, is available as an MP3 that can be downloaded, or, if you’re already subscribed to ZDNet’s IT Matters series of audio podcasts, it will show up on your system or MP3 player automatically (see ZDNet’s podcasts: How to tune in).   We also have video highlights of the session here.

Speaking of how Motorola is preparing to eat it's own dog food, Zander spoke of how many of his company's 65,000 employees will be outfitted with products like the Motorola Q with the eventual goal of eliminating the need for those mobile workers to have a physical office.  Although it's not the equivalent of a PC you might by in a store today, Zander said the Q compares favorably with the capabilities of PCs that are only a couple of years old.  Later, after the MasterMind session, he did a sit down interview with editors from CNET's news, reviews, and enterprise groups and he gave us a closer look at the Q which not only did an impressive job on the video for such a small device, but it's stereo speakers delivered very good sound (to go with the music video he was showing).  On the 1 GB memory card in the Q's SD slot was a copy of Star Wars and he played some of that back for us too. 

The Q is supposedly going to be available within the next couple of weeks and, in the keynote presentation, it was clear that the first versions were going to be CDMA EVDO based which means that the first carriers to sell the phone will probably be Sprint and/or Verizon.  He spoke of Verizon Wireless' V Cast service, a pretty good hint that the rumors are true that Verizon is going to be one of the operators to launch the new handset.

The Q wasn't all Zander talked about.  It's just part of a larger vision that Zander has for making sure the Internet follows us instead of the other way around.  Today, Zander said, we have to follow the Internet and we've all learned how to become Internet system administrators in order to make it work for us.  In an effort to take friction out of the system, and reduce complexity, Motorola is already demonstrating several interesting technologies to go along with the Q. For example, if you've recorded 24, a soccer match, or Desperate Housewives on your Motorola-based Digital Video Recorder (Moto's version of the TiVo), you will be able to "dock" your Q phone on the DVR and have that recorded content synchronize to the Q where you can take it on the road with you.

Zander identified the three primary connection points where people generally experience their connectivity: work, home, and in the car.  Motorola apparently plans to make our digital lifestyle a bit easier to move between the three.  In the apres-MasterMind interview however, he admitted that there are some challenges that are beyond his control.  For example, with so many hands in the content flow pot -- the cable operators, the content providers (eg: record labels, the operating system vendors, etc, -- the competing digital rights management technologies still create barriers to the seamless world Zander envisions. Zander came across as hopeful that common sense will prevail and in his self-proclaimed role as someone who doesn't pick winners (in other words, he'll support multiple incompatible DRM technologies as he does with Motorola's iTunes phone and the Windows Mobile based phones), told us that he spends some of his time trying to get the various players into the same room talking to each other.

At one point during the MasterMind session, the interviewers (Gartner analysts Nick Jones and Ken Delaney) questioned him about the wireless communications failures during Hurricane Katrina.  Zander admitted that these are problems that needed solving, but in the same breath reminded everyone that Motorola is the leading provider of wireless communications technologies to first responders.  Likening Katrina to 9/11, he talked about how much as been learned as as result of those disasters and some of the solutions that are on the way: solutions where governments are ahead of the private sector in terms of technology adoption.  The example he gave is where firemen are thought of as a wirelessly trackable assets.  The building is an asset that's tracked.  With wireless technologies, the location of the fireman can be tracked, his heart rate can be tracked and so too can his oxygen levels.  To make sure the airwaves are ready to support first responders, Zander talked about the promise of mesh networks (self-forming and organizing networks).  The company apparently tested some of these more resilient solutions at the last Super Bowl in Jacksonville. 

During the after hours interview, I asked Zander about what it took for Motorola to be the only licensee of Apple's iTunes technology (formats, digital rights management); a relationship that has produced Moto's Rockr iTunes phones (more are coming, the company just released a 1000-song version in the UK).  That interview was captured on video and will be posted later today.  But, according to Zander, he and Steve Jobs go back a long way -- back to Zander's days at Sun and the work that Sun and NeXT Computer (under Jobs) apparently did together.   Zander said that he and Jobs got to talking about the possibilities and then they took the next step.  However, in the same breath, Zander lamented some of the restrictions in the iTunes phones -- restrictions that, from the look on Zander's face, were either straining Motorola's relationship with Apple or the mobile operators.  I asked the next obvious question which had to do with his thoughts on rumors of an Apple cell phone.  On the one hand, with a market that may sell over a billion units this year, Zander said how could more companies not enter the business. On the other, he cited the huge challenges in producing products that simultaneously meet the needs of both mobile network operators and customers in a very diverse set of global markets.

Video Coverage:

 

Topics: Mobility

About

David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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