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Moto looks to WiMAX, simplified phone platforms for future growth
|04 мая 2008|
WiMAX sales increase but still have little bottom-line impact; handset hardware and software gain focus.
Motorola’s mounting losses dominated the financial news in wireless today, but the beleaguered vendor pointed toward two strategic shifts that might ultimately pull the company out of the mire, though neither would likely bare results until 2009 when it plans to split into two separate companies. The first trend is Moto’s shift from traditional cellular equipment, and the second is Moto’s new strategy of outsourcing the core technology of its devices to outside companies, particularly in the GSM space.
Motorola’s CEO Greg Brown said the vendor has shipped 3600 WiMAX base stations and 120,000 customer premise equipment devices globally. Though the numbers aren’t huge, they definitely indicate Moto’s WiMAX sales are ramping up. In December, Motorola said it had shipped 2000 base stations and tens of thousands of CPE devices in total, many of which to support its launch in Pakistan with Wateen Telecom.
Still, the sales were too small to have an impact on its networks and home mobility division’s financial results. The mobile networks segment recorded $1.2 billion in revenue in the first quarter, almost all of which came from the sale of GSM, CDMA and iDEN equipment. Brown, however, said the deals Motorola has been racking up—two more were just announced in Taiwan and Saudi Arabia—are starting to enter their commercial deployment phases, which will increase shipment volumes dramatically. Significant shipments won’t start until 2009, though, Brown said.
Perhaps the biggest of those deals to Motorola are the ones closest to home. Moto is one of Sprint’s three vendors for its nationwide WiMAX deployment and it is the exclusive vendor to Clearwire. Sprint, however, has delayed its initial launch in its three trial markets until an unspecified time this year, and the operator’s financial troubles may cause it to severely scale down its nationwide rollout ambitions unless it finds partners. Meanwhile, Clearwire has only conducted trials of WiMAX in Portland, but it continues to move into new markets with Motorola’s proprietary NextNet gear.
On the handset side, Motorola laid out one of its clearest roadmaps to date for its handsets—at least for the high-end UMTS devices. Motorola is abandoning its multiplatform approach for smartphones in favor of UIQ, the Symbian OS-based platform in which Moto recently took a 50% stake. Brown said it would continue to support and make devices on the Linux-Java platform particularly for its primary customers in China, but the focus would be on UIQ. He made no mention of the Microsoft Windows Mobile platform, which powers its Q smartphone line.
As for phone hardware, Motorola will center its UMTS silicon on Texas Instruments and Qualcomm chips. The first phones embedded with their chipsets would appear in 2009. And for lower-end GSM phones, Brown said, Motorola plans to pursue more original design manufacturing agreements, in which an outside vendor would build the core device. By simplifying its software and component platform strategies, Brown said, Motorola can focus more on form factor and industrial design as well as software, services and new interface technologies.
“As I look at the Mobile Devices business overall, and our priorities, we are focused on leveraging our talented employees, intellectual property, and design leadership to enhance our product portfolio, while managing our overall operating expenses,” Brown said. “In 2009, as we transition more of our devices to our improved platforms, we will deliver a broader and more innovative and competitive customer-driven product portfolio in which we will have lower cost devices and improved feature sets reflecting trends in music, touch, and messaging.”
UMTS and GSM are particularly important for Motorola to regain its global market share. While it still maintains a 9.5% market share—a quarter of market leader Nokia’s share—44% of its first-quarter sales came in North America, where the CDMA standard dominates. UMTS sales in the US today only go through AT&T. By simplifying and expanding its UMTS portfolio, Motorola could potentially tap into the overseas 3G device market dominated by Nokia. And by partnering with overseas manufacturers for lower-end and feature GSM phones, it can carve a larger foothold for itself in the developing markets.