Android: Motorola's Salvation

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Not that long ago, Motorola was struggling to survive in the cell phone business, just like Palm. But then Motorola took off, while the Palm continued its death spiral before being bought by HP. What saved Motorola? Put simply, it was Google's Android operating system.

The New York Times has an excellent article, "How the Destinies of Motorola and Palm Grew Apart," analyzing the diverging fates of Motorola and Palm. It describes how both companies had been among the earliest innovators in mobile phones, but how each of them ended up struggling.

So why did Motorola become a cell phone hit maker, while Palm spiralled downwards? Here's what the article says:

The reason for the different outcomes, in a word, may be Android, Google's operating system for mobile devices. "Motorola did quite well by jumping on Android's bandwagon," said Roger Entner, a mobile analyst with Nielsen. "Whereas Palm went the route of having their own operating system and launching that with Sprint, right against the iPhone."

Sanjay Jha, Motorola's co-chief executive, explains why the Android has been central to the company's success:

"When we started this turnaround, we had six mobile operating systems and 23 platforms. We were able to reduce that to one and it allowed all of our creative energies on one platform."

Key was that the Android platform took off, so much so that Android phone traffic in the U.S. recently outpaced iPhone traffic. Also, these days, apps sells phones, and the Android marketplace now has an estimated 38,000 apps. That's still far behind iPhone's App Store with 185,000 apps, but it's growing quickly.

Meanwhile, Palm, with its own WebOS operating system was in the doldrums, and was recently bought by HP.

All this leads to the inevitable question: Why is HP staking its mobile bet on Palm and the WebOS, when Android was able to turn around Motorola? That's a question that one day HP stockholders will be asking.

This story, "Android: Motorola's Salvation" was originally published by Computerworld.

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