Monday, February 18, 2008

Can the current crisis help Motorola?

Is it a stretch to think that one has to undergo some kind of a crisis (spiritual, emotional, material, etc) to become the source of innovation and light? Ron Tolido's blog has some examples of just that. Motorola needs to turn around its mobile devices business (something that is clear to everybody) and this is the perfect moment to do just that.

If we think abut new phones that Motorola has come up with, one comes into mind, namely the ROKR E8. The phone uses the ModeShift technology that is proprietary to Motorola as far as I can tell. I tried finding more info about it, but with no great success, except an article on InformationWeek. You can switch between the camera, music player, or a basic phone just by pressing one button. One has only the controls they need when they need them. For example, in music player mode, you would only see controls such as play, pause, shuffle, fast forward/backward etc, all specific to what a music player should have. The phone has won CNET's Best of CES award in the cell phones and smartphones category and CNET People's Voice Award. It is clearly a big step forward that Motorola has made, and we should expect in the future to see more mobile phones from Motorola that will incorporate this technology.

One other effort has been made in the R&D category by trying to incorporate technologies and practices that would shrink the design cycle of a mobile phone from 24 months (as it was in 2003 when the project started) to 24 hours. Known under the name of "One Pass to Production", the research project is being carried out by students and researchers at Florida Atlantic University. I came on board in 2006 and was (and still am) very excited by the challenge that comes with this project. There are six critical areas that are investigated: product specification; verification; performance evaluation; software development acceleration techniques; digital six sigma; and software-hardware co-design techniques. Students are divided into groups focusing on different stages of product development in order to find ways to reduce the length of the production cycle. Currently, we believe that our current methodology, after 5 years of research, can lead to a one month design cycle. Motorola's internal evaluation puts it at 3 months. I do believe that the goal of 24 hours will be reached, and in the future, I will post more about this research project. More information about this can be found here.

I have no doubt that if continuing on this path, Motorola's Mobile Division will survive its own recession and come out stronger and more focused than before.

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