Motorola still has eyes for Windows Phone
Motorola could exploit Nokia's virtual non-existence in the US to establish a Windows Phone stronghold
Published: 11 August, 2011
Motorola has hinted that it's not completely closed-off to the idea of using Windows Phone in future devices. Speaking at yesterday's Oppenheimer Technology & Communications Conference in Boston, Motorola Chairman and CEO, Sanjay Jha, was open to the possibility of eventually using the Microsoft platform.
This is no major revelation, but it has raised a few industry eyebrows. Motorola is in a committed relationship with Android and openly flirting with another platform would be a distraction. And it's not like Motorola hasn't been down that path before. Back in its more youthful days (before splitting from its parent) Motorola's promiscuity saw it climbing into bed with multiple OS partners, like Symbian and Windows Mobile. That unfocused behaviour is one of the factors which contributed to the handset marker's fall from grace, which is probably why Jha cautiously chose his words:
"I would have to consider whether defocusing from Android to Windows Phone will be the right thing for us to do," Jha said. "But if the capabilities on Windows are such that that is the right thing for us, I think we will consider it."
Whilst fidelity to a single platform has both economic and strategic advantages, the challenges of product differentiation remain, and this would be a key motivation to explore other partners. Over the past few years, Motorola's loss of market share has been dramatic and it now finds itself battling for sales in its domestic US market which it once dominated. According to ARCchart, in Q1 2011, Motorola held just 15% of the US Android market, compared to the massive 58% which HTC enjoys. Even Samsung has a larger share (than Motorola) of Android devices in the States.
Instead of competing like-for-like with the more nimble Asian vendors, Window Phone could provide Motorola with strongly differentiated products in the country which has, in the past, been the most accepting of Microsoft's mobile platform. To mitigate risk, a sensible strategy would be to sit back and let Nokia do all the heavy lifting to build the Windows Phone market - the Finnish vendor is now committed to the smartphone operating system and both it and Microsoft are investing heavily to expand the ecosystem. Motorola could then exploit Nokia's virtual non-existence in the US to establish a Windows Phone stronghold and win smartphone market share back from HTC and Samsung.
It sounds as though Jha is already thinking along these lines: "Nokia seems to be disproportionately well positioned in that ecosystem. I actually don't understand that deal with precision, but if our position in that ecosystem could be made to be somewhat equivalent, that would be an interesting option for us to consider," he stated.