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Zander charms as Moto steps up

Motorola on Monday unveiled its plans to turn around recent “disappointment”, with its ebullient CEO, Ed Zander pedaling onto the CES stage in Las Vegas, on a yellow bicycle – apparently an example of “expense controls”.

The world’s No. 2 handset maker vowed to improve media services on its phones and announced partnerships with internet heavyweights, Microsoft and Yahoo. Zander also revealed that Motorola is developing a set-top-box that sends television to phones, much like the Slingbox.

Details remain thin on the box – which Moto calls Follow Me TV – but some detail has been posted here.

Hopping off his bike, Zander revealed it had a dynamo attached to a charger that could be used by consumers in developing countries to charge mobile phones and spoke of the opportunities that lay ahead of the entire industry. There are 2 billion mobile subscribers in the world, Zander said. It took 20 years to get to 1 billion subscribers, three years to get to 2 billion but it will take just one year to grow to 3 billion, he said. And Zander’s keynote at the consumer show suggests he knows precisely how to get his company a big slice of that pie.

During his speech, Zander outlined a firm that is working hard to prove its detractors wrong. Recently Motorola has been heavily criticised for a lack of breadth in its portfolio as rivals Nokia and Sony Ericsson have surged with strong offerings in both the enterprise and consumer space. “Cool” seems to be the key term and as well as a Slingbox-type accessory in the works, he also revealed there is a music phone on the way that employs Microsoft’s digital rights management (DRM). The device, which will allow users to download music wirelessly, is expected in the first half of 2007.

Despite Zander’s obvious enthusiasm, Amit Nagpal, principal consultant at Analysys, remains cautious. “Motorola’s phones have not traditionally been viewed as being ‘cool’ – until, that is, the RAZR and its variants came along. Time will tell whether this was just an ‘upward blip’ in Motorola’s fortunes or whether Motorola really has turned things around.” Nagpal highlights Nokia and Sony Ericsson’s push on mid and high end phones and suggests that until now “it hasn’t been clear what Motorola’s equivalent offering is”.

Zander also demonstrated a new service, Yahoo2Go 2.0, which is designed to make Yahoo services more accessible on mobile phones. Zander showed off new Motorola designs that will have the software built in and promise to make the internet easier to use on a mobile. “I’ve been using it… I’m a convert”, Zander said.

Zander’s keynote speech can be seen here

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