Too Late For Google Android To Save Motorola?


Motorola this week said it is firmly hanging its hat on smartphones based on the open-source Google Android mobile operating system in a last-ditch effort to save its disappointing mobile devices division.

But Motorola may be too late to the Android party.

Granted, there is still only one Google Android-based device on the market right now: The T-Mobile G1, which made its public debut last October and has since hit the 1 million sold milestone. But in the G1's wake, Android fever is spreading and device makers big and small are clamoring to attach themselves to the now hot operating system as they look for ways to stoke the fire of slumping mobile device sales.

Samsung this week made its Android play official, unveiling the Android-based Samsung 17500, which will hit Germany in June. And HTC, maker of the T-Mobile G1, has a host of Google Android handhelds in the pipeline, with as many as three new HTC Android devices slated to hit before the year is closed out, and the HTC Magic expected sometime this spring. Along with Samsung and HTC, other device makers have paid lip service to Android, but have yet to produce actual results.

Stiff competition is the very reason Motorola is turning to Android. Motorola is ditching its low-end devices and focusing on the mid- to high-end market after failing to edge out chief rivals Nokia and LG.

Motorola, which expects to have Google Android smartphones on the market come fourth quarter, just in time for the ever-important holiday shopping season, is banking on Android to help it pull out of a pattern of poor device sales. In 2009's first quarter, Motorola's mobile device sales dropped a staggering 45 percent to $1.8 billion from the quarter one year ago. This came after device sales dipped a massive 51 percent in the fourth quarter compared to the previous year.

And who's to say Motorola won't be beaten down by the competition as it enters an Android market that come Black Friday will be crowded?

Motorola's devices business may be too far gone for Android to have its desired impact. Plus, by the time those Android devices make it into stores and into users' hands, other manufacturers will have established Android smartphone arsenals for the gadget-hungry masses to choose from, again leaving Motorola playing catch-up.

Motorola's keen interest in Google Android also comes at the expense of its initial plans to rally around Microsoft and its Windows Mobile operating system, which earlier this year Motorola said it would embrace wholeheartedly as it tries to reinvigorate its paltry device sales. Interestingly, however, as Motorola Mobile Devices CEO Sanjay Jha this week outlined the company's Android plans, its intentions with Microsoft and Windows Mobile were notably absent, prompting the question of whether it is completely abandoning Microsoft Windows Mobile to focus solely on Android.

Regardless of where Motorola sets its sights, it's going to be an uphill battle as it tries to recapture its yesteryear luster, when just a few short years ago it held 23 percent of the overall mobile devices market, compared to the roughly 6 percent it now carries.

With such a steep decline, it will take more than glomming on to a new operating system to pull it back to the surface. In addition, if Motorola does hope to capitalize on its late entry to the Google Android craze, it must do something different and innovative with the devices -- two elements Motorola's recent smartphone and cell phone releases have sorely lacked.

For now, it appears Motorola is clutching onto a "me too" play, and will enter the Android market too late to make waves.