When the Motorola RAZR launched it was considered to have placed Motorola as the phone manufacturer with the finger on the pulse. It was a combination of classy and clever engineering that looked great. It was well marketed and developed the same kind of style icon status as the iPod. There was clever seeding of the device amongst style influencers as well as the usual celebrity hoards.
In real life the RAZR isn’t quite as hot as the magazine adverts would have you believe. The felt too wide in my hand and it still has the same Motorola UI as the rest of the range so was a bit challenging to use. The battery life got tiresome and the camera wasn’t that good.
Worst of all, there wasn’t as much innovation to follow up. Ok there was the candy bar version the SLVR and a couple of colour changes, but to the average consumer what was the benefit? Motorola plugged the gap by allowing the phone to move downmarket without other handsets to come in at the top, hence the pictures taken off the LIDL website last week of SLVR and RAZR handsets at bargain prices.
The KRZR recently launched providing the RAZR experience in a narrower (nicer to hold format), but the iconic status as been lost since the it is playing catch up rather than being a leader.
It was like as if the RAZR was an end point rather than a journey. I saw a similar parallel working on the Palm account in 2000, where CEO Carl Yankowski thought that he could buck convergence and pent up customer demand just on the strength of the Palm brand and celebrity limited edition models in association with Michael Jordan and Claudia Schiffer. There is my name on a press release, buried behind a paidwall announcing the Claudia Schiffer device which was a Palm Vx in anodised blue with a couple of extra applications included.
Meanwhile Nokia was developing the smartphone and Microsoft was pushing on with the PocketPC, mostly in partnership with Compaq. In the end, Palm purchased Handspring because it was bereft of any breakthrough products and the PalmOS has died a long lingering undignified death. Whether it will be resurrected in a emulation layer of Access Linux has yet to be seen. Much of the innovators baton has passed from Palm to smaller licencees like QOOL Labs QDA 700 and GSpda’s Xplore range of devices, these companies were constrained in western markets only by their lack of distribution.
Motorola have been innovating with a new form factor in the MOTORIZR Z8, which features a ‘banana’ form factor a la the Nokia 8110 phone in The Matrix and the UIQ smartphone interface that Sony-Ericsson uses. How long will it take to bring this phone to market, is this too little too late and how can they pull together a sustainable pace of product innovation to compete with Nokia, Sony-Ericsson and Samsung?