Is Motorola Too Late To The Google Android Party With Cliq?

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It's been months since Motorola made the public proclamation that it would focus heavily on Google Android as it battles to regain relevance in a mobile device market.

And, yesterday, Motorola's Google Android dreams came true with the release of the Motorola Cliq, the first of what will likely be many Google Android-based smartphones expected from the Schaumburg, Ill.-based company, which has watched its mobile device revenue plummet in recent years.

With the Cliq, Motorola has officially hitched its wagon to Google Android, the latest mobile operating system darling that has the industry abuzz. But Motorola and the Cliq aren't alone. Android has become a top priority for a host of device makers. Samsung recently added an Android-based smartphone to its roster, though it's not yet available in the U.S. Others, like Acer have paid lip service to Google Android.

Probably no device manufacturer has been deeper in the Google Android pool than HTC. Taiwan-based HTC has a host of Google Android devices already under its belt and many more to come as it continues its infiltration of the U.S. smartphone market. HTC was first to hit the U.S. with Android with the T-Mobile G1 last October. It was second, as well, when it released the T-Mobile myTouch 3G earlier this year. And, now, HTC-made Android devices are popping up everywhere. Just this week, Sprint revealed that it will carry the HTC Hero in the U.S., the latest Android device from the minds at HTC and the first for the carrier. And in Europe, HTC revealed the Google Android-based HTC Tattoo, which will also eventually trickle into the U.S.

What's all this mean? It means Motorola has an uphill battle ahead of it if it plans to make hay with its Android offerings.

Granted, the Motorola Cliq is just the tip of the Google Android iceberg for Motorola, but so far the smartphone appears to be more of a "me too" play than anything wholly original.

The 3G Motorola Cliq, which will first appear on T-Mobile's network in the U.S., ties in a full slide-out QWERTY keyboard, a 3.1-inch touch screen, Wi-Fi, a 5-megapixel camera with auto focus and video capture for 24-frame-per-second playback, a 3.5mm headset jack, a music player preloaded with the Amazon MP3 store, and 2 GB of internal memory, expandable to up to 32 GB.

The Cliq also adds one-touch access to a host of Google mobile services via Google Android, including Google Search by voice, Google Maps with Street View, YouTube and Picasa. It also offers access to personal and corporate e-mail, calendars and contacts via Exchange Server and Gmail, along with Yahoo, Windows Live Hotmail and other POP3 and IMAP services. For instant messaging, Motorola Cliq with Google Android supports Google Talk, AOL, Yahoo Messenger and Windows Live Messenger.

But the device's specs are secondary for Motorola, which is hyping up the Cliq's MotoBlur interface more than the device itself. MotoBlur is a customizable interface that lets users aggregate social networking information and communications tools like e-mail messages, text messages, Facebook information, Twitter feeds, pictures and more into a single pane of glass. In addition, MotoBlur syncs back to Motorola's Blur servers backing up the user's data in case a device is lost or stolen so they can retrieve contact information, log-in information, customized home screens, e-mails and more. It also features a remote wiping capability to zap away data if a device falls into the wrong hands.

MotoBlur is a cool new feature, but Motorola is positioning it as a clear differentiator when HTC has been talking up the same capabilities for months via its HTC Sense interface. HTC Sense, which will be featured in both the HTC Hero and HTC Tattoo, is similar to MotoBlur in that it lets users customize their devices to ease use and simplify access to information.

And while Motorola mobile devices chief and co-CEO Sanjay Jha said Motorola's Google Android venture won't "make or break" the company's mobile device revival, releasing an Android-based device that apes its biggest rivals could have a negative impact on sales and send Motorola back to the drawing board.

It remains to be seen whether Motorola is too late to the Google Android party with the Motorola Cliq, which is expected to be available sometime in late fall, but the Cliq is certainly nothing new. And with Motorola banking on Google Android to bring it back to the days of the Razr, it better have more tricks up its sleeve.

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