smartphones

Tech execs sound off: Down on PCs, Motorola, fast Ethernet

Corporate executives say the darndest things, especially this week in San Francisco. Forget about Mobile World Congress and its endless supply of new gadget announcements. The most interesting headlines are being made by strategists and bean counters sitting down to chat at the Morgan Stanley Technology Conference.

Meg Whitman HP CEO
Meg Whitman, HP CEO

It all started on Tuesday when Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman said the world’s largest PC maker was diverting attention away from PCs and toward tablets. Then, on Wednesday, Time Warner Cable CFO Irene Esteves said that nobody wants gigabit Ethernet. Not to be outdone, Google CFO Patrick Pichette on Thursday completed the trifecta of “I can’t believe they just said that” comments by implying that Motorola phones are nice, but meh, they're not that interesting, according to The Verge.

Where’s my ‘wow’ phone?

When Google announced it was buying Motorola in 2011, it sparked anticipation that those crazy Googlers might try some innovative product and business model ideas with their new company. About nine months and three Ice Cream Sandwich phones later, however, all Google-controlled Motorola has really done is play catch-up to the Samsung Galaxy line.

Patrick Pichette Google CFO
Patrick Pichette, Google CFO

But don’t blame Google for this smartphone yawn fest, Pichette says, blame it on the previous management that came up with these handsets. “We've inherited 18 months of [product] pipeline that we actually have to drain right now,” Pichette said on Thursday, because nothing instills investor confidence better than a plumbing metaphor.

Pichette made similar comments in January during a company earnings call, and based on his timeline, we should see a truly Google-inspired Motorola Razr or Droid around late 2013 or early 2014. Until then, we can expect a Motorola product lineup that is “fine, but not really to the standards that what Google would say is wow, innovative, transformative,” according to Pichette.

Galaxy rising

At least nine months of so-so smartphones is a problem for Google, since a resurgent Motorola would be a boon for the overall health of the Android platform. Even though Android is the most popular operating system on the planet, the current race for smartphone dominance is between just two competitors: Apple and Samsung.

Samsung is the number one smartphone vendor in the world, and in 2012 the Galaxy-maker owned about 42 percent of the worldwide market share for Android devices, according to a recent report by market research firm IDC. Competing Android makers trailed the Korea-based manufacturer in the single digits, IDC said (IDC and TechHive are both owned by International Data Group).

Samsung Galaxy SIII

Samsung’s prominence as the standard bearer for Android devices hasn’t gone unnoticed by the management at Google HQ. A recent report in The Wall Street Journal said Google executives are concerned that Samsung might leverage its importance to Android’s future by eating into the search giant’s all-important mobile advertising revenue. Google execs have since downplayed any concerns about Samsung, but a set of popular Motorola phones would certainly help keep Samsung in check.

But nine months is an eternity in the smartphone world, and allows Samsung’s popularity room to grow, especially after it releases the Galaxy S4 later this month. While we wait for Motorola to amaze us, Pichette says the company’s product development team is hard at work on the “next wave of innovation” for smartphones and their early work is “quite promising.”

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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