Zander hails the cell phone's future

Motorola's CEO says sophisticated software and hardware could make the smart phone as central to the home and office as the PC.
Written by Dawn Kawamoto on
SANTA CLARA, Calif.--Motorola's chief executive is traveling lighter these days, and he predicts the rest of the mobile work force will too.

PC-like features are being ported over to cell phones with increasing frequency, pushing the phone down the same path that led to the PC's dominant role in home and office technology, Motorola's Ed Zander said during his keynote speech here at Software 2007, an industry conference.

"We're making a bet that what happened to PCs will happen to these (smart phones)," said Zander,

A movement is afoot within the software industry to create micro-applications, such as customer relationship management software, forecasting systems and revenue tracking software, and load them onto these handheld devices, Zander said.

But whether the smart phone will one day become just a platform for software stacks has yet to be seen, he noted.

Motorola, which heightened its brand recognition among consumers with its popular thin phone, the Razr, is aiming to increase its presence in the enterprise market. Last fall, Motorola announced plans to acquire Good Technology, which develops enterprise mobile messaging and mobile intranet products.

Among the challenges the company has faced over the past four months, he said, is instilling a sense of urgency for innovation and hitting the right markets with its mobile phones.

Motorola aims to make smart phones that offer both enterprise and consumer features, including the ability to seamlessly interact with the wired devices in a user's home. One consumer smart-phone application, for example, would allow a user who is on the road to remotely program a home-based digital video recorder.

Fresh from its bout with activist shareholder Carl Icahn, who this week lost a proxy fight for a seat on the company's board, Motorola is under pressure to enhance its financial performance and boost shareholder value. The company has been on a path to diversify its product portfolio as it faces increased competition and thinning profit margins in the cell phone market.

Last month, Motorola announced plans to buy digital television software and equipment supplier Terayon Communication Systems, in a $140 million cash deal. Motorola, which ranks as the top seller of set-top boxes to the cable industry, can use the Terayon deal to bolster its video systems infrastructure.

As for its core business--the mobile handset division--Zander has vowed to show a profit this year and is expected to put a portion of the company's $11 billion in cash to work to fund acquisitions and develop new products.

Motorola's competitors are also turning to software applications to enhance their prospects. Nokia, which holds the largest market share in mobile phones, is promoting new applications designed to make surfing the Internet via cell phone similar to the user's Web-surfing experience on a PC. To that end, Nokia is providing third-party developers widgets, or tools, to facilitate creation of applications for smart phones using Symbian Series 60 software platform.


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