Even when its hardware innovations ruled the mobile world, Motorola was never known for its software prowess. But Sanjay Jha, now CEO of Motorola Mobility, made it a key mission to change all that, when he joined the firm from Qualcomm. Now he says the decision to focus on Android is starting to reap rewards, in an era when the applications and user experience were more important than hardware in luring consumers.
Speaking at Morgan Stanley's Technology, Media and Telecom Conference, Jha said that most of the new tablets coming to market will have similar processing power and other physical attributes, but they would be differentiated in software. This was true in the enterprise market too, where he claimed a high level of interest in Android tablets. "CIOs like Android," he said. "The ability to add applications and customize your devices is appealing."
Ironically, then, most of the criticisms of the Motorola Xoom, which went on sale last week, have focused on its software, notably the new Honeycomb release of Android, the first to be optimized for larger screens. Although the Xoom has scored points by being the first device to run Honeycomb, and Google's showcase product, it also carries the burden of being associated with any teething problems. Early reviewers have said the new OS release is clearly still a work in progress, with users complaining of frequent app crashes. Also, Adobe Flash is not yet ready for Honeycomb, though it is expected to arrive on Android tablets next month.
One of the reasons for Jha's focus on the enterprise is that it will be less price sensitive. Motorola has taken the gamble of assuming that many users will favor high performance, especially the ability to upgrade to LTE soon, over price, so Xoom is more expensive than the iPad (and the iPad 2 is not expected to increase the Apple price tag). Jha reminisced: "We knew that iPad was launched and we got started building a product, and we felt very early on that we needed to deliver a product which had higher performance. And of course … we sort of thought that by the time we deliver a product, shortly thereafter there will be an iPad 2 or some such. So we had to shoot a little bit in front of where we felt the iPad product was."