Motorola's RAZRi launch is interesting - but not because of the phone

Motorola's newest addition to the RAZR family could mark a more concerted assault on the UK market. At the same time, it's Intel's first 'big name' handset to be announced for the UK without explicit operator support, marking a shift in strategy for the chipmaker.
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

Motorola unveiled the RAZRi smartphone in London on Tuesday. The launch was notable for two reasons — neither of which was the phone itself.

Motorola RAZR i
The Motorola RAZRi is a pretty standard top-end handset. But what does its release say about Motorola and Intel's tactics? Image: Ben Woods

Aside from its 2GHz Intel processor, the RAZRi is fairly unremarkable, with a spec sheet that reads as you'd expect: decent connectivity, microSD expansion, 8-megapixel camera, Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS. Essentially, the RAZRi has all the staples common at the high end of the smartphone world.

READ THIS: Photos: Motorola unveils 2GHz Intel-powered RAZRi

What is more notable is where Motorola will be launching the device. At the launch there was no hint that the phone would head to the US — Motorola's home country and the market in which it does best. Instead, it is planning to launch the RAZRi in specific European territories and Latin America.

Perhaps it is less surprising that Motorola chose to take the RAZRi outside the US given the handset company now belongs to Google. Its new owner has a more global reach than Motorola currently enjoys, and Google may just be looking to try new tactics. Motorola's lack of success in the UK with its last few handset releases might also have been a catalyst for a more concerted effort in Western Europe.

The Intel angle

The RAZRi launch is also the second prong of Intel's strategy for making a splash in the mobile market.

Intel's first handset, the Orange San Diego, was (as its name implies) launched with the support of a well-established UK operator rather than a handset maker. This second device, however, is clearly manufacturer first, operator second.

The reason for this is that Intel essentially offers two different options. On the one hand, it can supply a 95-percent ready-to-go device that can be tweaked and taken to market with the minimum of input, Sumeet Syal, director of marketing for the Atom team at Intel, told ZDNet — as was the case with the San Diego.

Alternatively, if they prefer, companies can take the chip expertise from Intel and design the hardware and specific parts of the software itself — as Motorola did.

Whether or not their respective changes of tactics will work for Motorola and Intel remains to be seen. And, while the RAZRi probably won't set Western Europe alight — given its strong competition from HTC, Nokia and Apple in the region — it could sell well enough to mark the start of Intel making greater inroads in the mobile market.

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