Passing the buck
Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha gave an overview of where things stand for his company at a recent technology conference. Almost immediately, and without any specific question on the matter, Jha highlighted one of the key challenges of an Android OEM is delivering good hardware performance when many of the apps people download undermine that.
"70 percent of all smartphone returns tend to be for software reasons. We're beginning to understand now what has been going on," said Jha.
"One of the good and problematic things about Android is that it's very, very open, so anyone can put third party apps in the marketplace without any testing process. There is a way of taking malicious applications off the marketplace, but generally for power consumption, for CPU utilisation, for some of those things those applications are not tested.
"We're now beginning to understand the impact that has. Remember Android is really, truly multitasked, so you can run 64 parallel applications at the same time, and it has an impact on consumer experience. We're beginning to understand why 70 percent of the devices are coming back - because they're downloading third party applications and the impact that has on the performance of the device."
This all makes sense. Of course Android apps are going to be less optimised those for other smartphone platforms, as Android is the most open. But you sense a bit of an agenda too. This was clearly the first thing Jha wanted to get out and he didn't wait to be asked a question about it. What this issue doesn't address is why, despite being one of the first, Moto seems to be losing ground to Samsung and HTC in the Android market.
Here are some other quotes we transcribed from Jha's presentation.
On Android: "There was a time, when we first launched our Droid, when we made a risk, but in retrospect not so risky, decision to chose Android, and we were one of the few executing on Andoid at that level. Of course, there are now a number of players, so Android now is not a differentiator. But it's important to realise that it is not a negative differentiator either. But there is a need for us to differentiate above that platform."
On Motoblur: "We have about 10 million subscribers now. If you don't have scale there's not that much you can do and ten million is just beginning to get interesting. Steve Jobs understood that taking content with you was going to be important to people."
On the need to diversify markets and channels: "This is a very volatile business, one of the best ways to get predictability of business is to have diversity in the channels. For me the story of the first quarter was the robust performance of our international markets. You will see us similarly focused on enterprise and retail channels as well."
On marketing: "You saw with Atrix and Xoom we have very good products. In retrospect I think we could have done a better job of communicating our message, and I think you'll see that we've learned from it and will get better at doing some of those things."