News Article | January 9, 2016
A little less than a year ago, Chinese PC behemoth Lenovo announced it was buying Motorola Mobility from Google. In the press release announcing the news, it called the Motorola name "iconic" and "world-reknowned," and touted its own expertise at taking good care of famous brands, as it did when it assumed responsibility for the ThinkPad nameplate by acquiring IBM's PC business in 2005. That was then. Now CNet's Roger Cheng is reporting that Lenovo isn't so smitten with the Motorola brand after all. Henceforth, it's going to downplay it in favor of emphasizing "Moto"—a nickname that Motorola had already embraced in recent years—and pairing that name with Lenovo's own brand. On the official Motorola blog, the company clarified that it doesn't plan to entirely kill off the Motorola name. But it said that "Moto" is "contemporary and engaging," which is presumably a polite way of suggesting that it's decided that "Motorola" is not. Unless you're a hundred years old or thereabouts, you don't remember a time when the Motorola brand wasn't part of American culture. It originated in 1930 as a brand applied to car radios by a Chicago manufacturer named Galvin Manufacturing, which explains the "Motor" prefix. The "ola" part was commonplace in branding for electronics at the time, such as Victrola phonographs and Rock-Ola jukeboxes. Motorola (which Galvin adopted as its corporate name in 1948) became huge by applying its rather specific name to an dizzying array of products—often helping to pioneer new categories. In its 1967 annual report—just to pick a year at random—it detailed product lines that included TV sets, phonographs, semiconductors, satellite communications systems for space flights, walkie-talkies for police departments, heavy-duty alternators for trucks, and test-scoring machines for schools. And, yes, car radios. The company made the processor inside the first Macintosh computer. It invented the mobile phone and produced such iconic models as the Star-Tac and Razr. Even recently, Motorola Mobility has done inventive things like selling user-customizable smartphones and helping to jump-start the smart-watch industry. It's been a long time since Motorola was the Motorola of yore, though. It sold off its defense business in 2001 and spun out its semiconductor arm in 2004. It got rid of its automotive operations in 2006, and in 2010, split itself into two companies. One was the phone business, which Google bought for $12.5 billion in 2011 and then turned over to Lenovo for $2.9 billion (sans patent portfolio) less than three years later. That's the part that is slimming its brand down to "Moto." The other stand-alone Motorola created by the 2010 breakup is Motorola Solutions, a maker of everything from two-way radios to body-worn cameras. It's still very much extant and shows no sign of wanting to dump its moniker. So Lenovo's move simply means that the Motorola brand is going to fade away on smartphones and other consumer products. Given that Motorola invented the smartphone, that's sad news. But not too sad. What's really depressing is what's happened to a bunch of other once-proud American technology brands that eventually fell on hard times. Names such as Bell & Howell, Polaroid, and Westinghouse. They're now zombies, kept alive by licensing programs that allow random companies to use them on products by paying a fee. That's why you can buy Bell & Howell pest repellers, Polaroid headphones, and Westinghouse wine cellars. Then there's Packard Bell, once one of Motorola's archrivals in the radio business, which is now a PC brand used by Acer in numerous countries—but not the U.S., where it originated. The only remaining value it has is that it sounds vaguely familiar. When a brand becomes a zombie, the best you can hope for is that it's occasionally applied to something at least vaguely presentable, like Polaroid's Cube wearable camera. But I can't imagine that Polaroid's founder Edwin Land, one of the most extraordinary technological innovators and entrepreneurs of all time, would be happy with the Cube, let alone something like a Polaroid Nintendo charging dock. "Motorola" is already available for rent: A company called Zoom Telephonics, for instance, markets cable modems under the brand. I suspect that there will be companies willing to use the name long after Lenovo loses interest in marketing Moto smartphones. But you know what? Even if you remain fond of the Motorola brand, as I am, that doesn't mean you should root for it to live on indefinitely. As of right now, Lenovo's Motorola products are still very respectable—and graceful disappearance on a high note would be far preferable to zombification.
News Article | April 20, 2016
Leaked images of Motorola's upcoming Moto G4 Plus recently revealed its display and fingerprint scanner. Now, photos of what is reportedly the Moto G4 have hit the Web, giving us a glimpse of its rear camera, screen and biometric reader. Motorola is having a tough time reclaiming the days when it released iconic devices like the StarTac, RAZR and 2009's Motorola Droid, which made its debut on Verizon and was one of the first Android smartphones to take a bite out of Apple's iPhone, which was still an exclusive on AT&T. In 2011 Google announced it had bought Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion and the acquisition was largely viewed as Google's way of entering the hardware business to compete with Apple. The honeymoon didn't last long and Google ended up selling Motorola to Lenovo in 2014 at a huge loss, for $2.91 billion. As a parting gift, Google enlisted Motorola to build its 2014 flagship Nexus 6 phablet and under Lenovo, it released the new Moto X, Moto G, Moto E and Droid smartphones. In January, a Lenovo executive confirmed that Moto-branded smartphones were on the horizon and in an effort to address security, would all include fingerprint scanners. We just reported that an image of what is supposedly the Moto G4 Plus has leaked and the photo clearly shows the smartphone will include a fingerprint scanner below its display. Now, new images of what is reportedly the Motorola Moto G4 have leaked online and provide a close-up view of its rear camera and display, which features the same square fingerprint scanner as the earlier device. The Moto G4 images were posted to Weibo and as you can see in the image above, the design of the smartphone matches the Moto G4 Plus. The fingerprint scanner is embedded on the display and a microphone hole is located on the left. Another image shows the rear case of the Moto G4, which includes Motorola's "M" logo below its camera, which features an LED flash and two sensors, believed to possibly be laser autofocus. No information regarding the Moto G4's specs was revealed but as always, we'll keep you posted on any new information as it becomes available. © 2016 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
The mobile phone's origins can be traced back to 1947 and a team of engineers lead by Douglas Ring working for Bell Labs in the US. All the basic principles and features we now associate with a mobile phone and cellular network were established by this team, but the technology of the day was simply incapable of realising their visionary concepts. It wasn't until April 1973 that a team of Motorola engineers led by Martin Cooper created the world's first functioning cellular mobile phone. And even then there wasn't a network for it to use: the first experimental cellular network was built in Chicago four years later, and didn't reach the UK until 1985. There were at the time two major companies designing and manufacturing mobile phones, Motorola and Nokia, but the more innovative of these two was most definitely Motorola. This is the firm that gave us the iconic DynaTAC 8000 in 1984, the world's first flip phone, the MicroTAC, in 1989, and in 1996 the world's first clamshell-style phone, the StarTAC, also the smallest, lightest mobile of its day. In 1991 Motorola released the world's first GSM cellular handset (Motorola 3200). In 1993 it manufactured the world's first mobile phone using the GSM 1800MHz band (Motorola m300), followed by the first tri-band mobile phone in 1999 (Motorola L7089). Together BT Cellnet and Motorola launched the world's first GPRS mobile data service in 2000, using the Motorola Timeport T-260. In fact, right from the beginning world firsts were what Motorola did. The company that would become Motorola began life in 1928 as Galvin Manufacturing Corporation, of Chicago. It quickly established itself as a specialist in radio technology, developing the first in-car radios – hence MOTOR (representing the car) and VictrOLA (representing sound, from the Victrola Talking Machine Company). The firm went on to create the first walkie-talkies for military use, the in-car radio-telephone, the world's first pager, and we even heard Neil Armstrong's immortal words when he stepped foot onto the lunar surface in 1969 thanks to Motorola radio technology. And this is in addition to the firm's pioneering work on semiconductors, microprocessors (the Motorola M68000 family powered popular computers such as the Atari ST, Amiga and early Apple Macintoshes) televisions, and barcode scanners. Motorola was the largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world before Nokia knocked them off their top spot in 1998. The firm had a brief resurgence in fortunes with 2004 launch of the Razr, the world's top-selling clamshell mobile and one of the thinnest ever produced. But between 2006 and 2009, Motorola's mobile market share plummeted from 21% to 6%. How did it all go wrong? Motorola's problem was that it was a hardware technology company, but from the mid-2000s it was software driving the mobile phone business. Here Motorola was weak – their phone's interface was seen as clunky compared to its rivals, and their smartphones dithered between Linux and Windows-based operating systems. Products such as the Motorola Q, a Blackberry-like smartphone with a QWERTY keyboard, fared poorly compared to the competition, while the arrival of the Apple iPhone in 2007 changed the game for everyone, as the mobile phone morphed into a pocket computer. In 2009, under CEO Sanjay Jha, Motorola refocused on producing Android phones, launching its Droid phone range which was picked up by US telco Verizon. That Droid sales exceeded those of the iPhone in the US encouraged Google to take an interest in purchasing Motorola. And so in 2011, Motorola was split in two: Motorola Mobility, which focused on consumer devices including mobile handsets was sold to Google for US$12.5 billion in May 2012, leaving the rump as Motorola Solutions. Motorola's appeal to Google was as a manufacturing company to produce its own devices, the Nexus phones, and to gain access to Motorola's patent catalogue. The Moto range of smartphones released under Google's ownership were well received, with the entry level Moto G garnering 6% of the UK market share in Feburary 2014. The high-end Moto X fared much more poorly, and US manufacturing was closed and moved to China and Brazil. Today Motorola Mobility has a 1% share of the global mobile phone market, but stronger in the US with around 6.8%. Nevertheless the continuing global market share decline and year-on-year financial losses saw Google sell the firm on once more, to Lenovo for US$3 billion in late 2014. For Lenovo it was a opportunity to gain foothold in the US market with an established brand. So for while it seemed as though Motorola would live on – albeit a pale shadow of its former self – under Chinese ownership. Instead the company that gave us the mobile phone and so many world firsts has ended its days passed from pillar to post, sold and re-sold, until the iconic Motorola brand was finally merged out of existence. And so Motorola joins a group of departed tech giants that ploughed a similar path: Atari, Commodore, SGI, Sun – how the mighty are fallen. Explore further: Motorola brings back 'Razr' name for smartphone
This fall, Apple once again won the dubious honor of dominating the conversation on patent infringement. First, it lost a ruling in Germany’s top civil court over the slide-to-unlock feature, backing an earlier ruling in favor of Motorola Mobility. As expected, Apple is appealing the ruling. Then, it scored a victory when it won a patent ruling against Samsung in the U.S. appeals court over the same feature, plus two others (autocorrect and data detection). As expected, Samsung is appealing the ruling. Then, it took a hit when a federal jury decided that Apple infringed on a 1998 University of Wisconsin-Madison patent covering performance-improving processing technology. As expected, Apple is appealing the ruling. Apple seems to get caught in lots of patent fights. Since 2009, Nokia has sued Apple (they settled), Apple has sued HTC (they settled), Kodak sued Apple (Kodak is appealing), Motorola Mobility sued Apple (Apple is appealing) and Apple and Samsung filed more than 40 lawsuits against each other (still fighting it out in the U.S.). The list goes on. With so much energy spent in patent lawsuits, inventors have to wonder: What is the point of the patent system, and what should they do to win? The U.S. Patent Office’s website has a quote that explains the intended benefits of the system: “By protecting intellectual endeavors and encouraging technological progress, the USPTO seeks to preserve the United States’ technological edge, which is key to our current and future competitiveness.” The keywords are “protecting” and “encouraging.” The system is meant to protect inventors from the competition, and this protection should encourage inventors to innovate prolifically. However, the system as it stands today falls short of these two goals. First, protection. Are patents good at preventing competitors from entering your space? Not at all. Someone skilled in the art can take the same problem, and with hard work and ingenuity find a slightly different way to solve that same problem — bypassing the whole infringement argument. Patents are better for playing defense than offense. By filing a patent, an inventor makes sure no one can patent the same thing after the fact. This protects their “freedom to practice.” It makes sure no one can put them out of business for marketing their invention. Second, encouragement. Given the dubious protection offered by patents, does the system encourage or discourage people from inventing? I would argue that it has no effect, whatsoever. Just look at the Apple v. Samsung case. For all the money, drama and press, has it changed anything about how Apple or Samsung does business? Not at all. “Apple has won every round,” said Michael Risch, a professor of law at Villanova University School of Law. “But the reality is it hasn’t actually slowed Samsung down.” If massively successful technology companies like Apple, Samsung and Motorola Mobility spend years suing each other with little business results to show for the effort, should inventors bother to file patents at all? It depends on the industry vertical. There are many thought leaders who argue that software patents make no sense. Software companies with deep algorithms are often better off leaving those algorithms as proprietary technology — this prevents competitors from reverse engineering their solutions by reading their published patent applications. Business logic and user experience are not reasonably protectable by claims, either. For software companies, I would posit that the only kind of utility patent worth filing is a systems patent that outlines a novel way of integrating a system to provide an innovative end-to-end solution. That, and design patents, can make sense. Played properly, such systems patents on software solutions could significantly improve the valuation of a company. For hardware companies, the situation is different. Hardware can sometimes be reverse engineered by doing a careful teardown. So it is paramount that anything physically visible in the system architecture be covered by a good set of patents. One would need a good utility patent on the overall system to cover the end-to-end solution, in addition to a constellation of utility and design patents covering components in the hardware architecture. Patents may not encourage innovation per se, but they don’t have to retard innovation. Inventors need to understand how the system works, and figure out how to succeed within this system. With the help of a good patent attorney, an inventor should be able to craft an intellectual property protection strategy that can remove obstacles and help their business achieve market success.
News Article | January 11, 2016
Motorola explained in a blog post that Motorola Mobility will live on and continue to be the central corporate architecture of its parent company Lenovo. The move was intended to clear the confusion brought about by a recent announcement that stated the name "Motorola" will be phased out. An earlier report at Tech Times indicated that the change in branding to "Moto by Lenovo" is an attempt by Lenovo to build stronger ties with Moto by placing added focus on products that are more on the high-end side while categorizing the budget models under the Vibe brand. "We'll slowly phase out Motorola," said Rick Osterloh, Motorola chief operating officer, in an interview with CNET at the CES. Osterloh added that the company will focus instead on Moto. However, it turns out that the plan to phase out the Motorola name left fans feeling confused as to how the future of Motorola and the Moto line will look like. A separate report from CNET also stated that upcoming phones will begin to show the blue logo of Lenovo while the ubiquitous "M" batwing logo of Motorola will continue to be used. In other words, Motorola's name will be gone, but its "physical brand image" will still be visible. Motorola claimed that it has made the strategic decision to put a strong focus on "Moto" as the primary product brand. "'Moto' is synonymous with Motorola, and it conveys the Motorola brand to consumers in a contemporary and engaging way," said Motorola on its official blog. Motorola also added that the iconic batwing symbol, which had appeared as static blue or red for several years, will remain on their products and continue as a marketing component because of the prominent role it has always played. The blog post also stated that the company will focus its marketing efforts on its hero smartphone product brands, which shall be known globally as "Moto" and "Vibe." The Motorola brand will continue to be used on packaging and will also live on through the company's licensees. "The Motorola legacy is near and dear to us as product designers, engineers and Motorola employees," added Motorola.