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Yesterday Motorola did us the courtesy of wasting an hour of our time re-announcing phones they had already launched before finally getting around to yet another RAZR. While describing each of these “new” phones, which were all announced 3 months ago at 3GSM, Motorola was sure to make some direct, as well as many indirect comparisons between these products (which were originally announced after the iPhone) and the iPhone.
Reframing these phones’ features and form factors did not make them any more of a competitor to the iPhone than they were before. It was a marketing ploy, and a poor one at that. After the failure of the first ROKR, Ed Zander (who is lovingly referred to as ZNDR in phone nerd circles) often said Moto should be more like Apple and he wanted to copy Steve Jobs’ style. (minus the black turtle neck, natch.)
And ZNDR would do well to learn some lessons from Jobs. For instance, when Jobs wastes his breath comparing his products to that from other players he only does it in two cases, to say “everyone has tried to copy this” or to say “no one else does this.” This is reinforcing Apple’s position as an innovator. However every time Jeremy Dale or ZNDR talked about the iPhone yesterday, it wasn’t in a “look what Apple learned from us” context, instead it was “hey look at us, we sortof do that too, see?” And all that does is reinforce Motorola as both a second class citizen and a company who clearly is focusing on just one thing – the iPhone.
Anyone who’s been in the ring knows that focusing on just one thing you’re afraid of often leads to your downfall. It opens you up to all sorts of other attacks, and worse, it often means that you miss your opportunity to strike the winning blow. You’re so focused on that one thing that the opportunity just passes you by when it presents itself. and so it happened when ZNDR finally got around to announcing Motorola’s new (more like updated but never seen before) phone, the RAZR2.
Motorola is a company steeped in legacy. Heck even their most original phone in the past 5 years, the RAZR, was just an updated Startac. So who could be surprised when they finally got around to announcing something new that it was yet another RAZR? And they blew this the same way many fighters have blown fights. They are so focused on the one knockout punch or submission that has helped them win before that they again miss an huge opening for victory that presents itself – the fight equivalent of one-hit wonders.
And so Motorola was so focused on reviving the glory of the RAZR that they totally missed their opportunity, even though the technology and designs were already in their portfolio. The RAZR2 is average for a high end phone at best. In fact, feature-wise the HSDPA and CDMA models are not improvements over Moto’s current offerings in the least. The CDMA version is actually a downgrade from the RAZR Maxx, and the HSDPA version has the exact same specs as the V3xx. The GSM version is actually pretty hot, but will not be Moto’s big seller for the US.
While Moto was so focused on making yet another RAZR (how can we make it thinner? No, It needs to look more RAZR-like.) They totally ignored the one truly innovative feature and turned it into nothing more than a gimmick. The RAZR2 has 2 QVGA screens. TWO!! Which is so totally gluttonous it makes me sick to my stomach. Never mind that because the outer screen has an amazing feature – the bottom part of the screen is touch sensitive. So when you access the few features available with the phone closed, you control them by pressing on labels – labels that change since they are written on the screen. And when you press them, you get a little vibration that helps you realize you pressed something (it’s called haptics).
Moto totally had it in the bag. They could have redesigned their slider (maybe a sleeker sexier version of the Z6?) and used this screen as the main screen. They could have done away with the traditional soft keys and used the on-screen soft key area for ALL navigation. Sure it would have take some serious interface redesign, but it would have been worth it. People would have gone gaga over how cool it was that the buttons that are always so far away from the labels of what they do were actually on the labels of what they do. Yes the Palm OS and Windows Mobile Professional both do this, but they don’t do it with haptics (and the Palm OS doesn’t really do it in any organized fashion either). And Moto could have really innovated. They could have changed the game. Maybe even making an OS that was even easier to navigate than the iPhone.
But they were so worried about their one knock out punch (the RAZR form factor) and how badly their opponent might hurt them, that now this innovation is just a gimmick. nothing more than LEDs on equalizers. And this fight will have to go to the judges instead of being decided by a knockout blow.