Moto fights back – Android device unveiled

Struggling vendor Motorola started to fight back late Thursday, with the unveiling of its first Android powered smartphone which, if reports are correct, should be the first of many such devices.

The device, known as the Cliq in the US and the Dext elsewhere, looks like a relation of the Nokia N97. It features a 3.1 inch HVGA touchscreen, with a full size, slide out QWERTY keyboard nestled underneath, a 5 megapixel camera, 3.5mm headset jack, wifi, GPS, and support for up to 32GB of removable memory.

As is the trend among most vendors that have adopted the Android platform, Motorola has skinned the OS in its own style and developed an interface known as MotoBlur, which leaps onto a number of mobile OS bandwagons. The first of these is the integration of social networking and communication, with MotoBlur streaming together posts, messages and photos from different sources including Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Gmail, and other email. All of this info is pulled onto the homescreen via the magic of widgets and like Apple and Palm, Motorola is also making use of the cloud to allow backup and syncing of all contacts, log-in information, home screen customisation, email and social network messages to its own secure server.

Gavn Byrne, handset analyst with Informa Telecoms & Media said the success and acceptance of MotoBlur will be important for Motorola as it moves the mobile device closer to the cloud.  Byrne also said that pricing, and operator subsidy, for the Cliq / Dext will be key to its performance. “It could compete strongly with Nokia’s N97,” he said.

The Cliq will be available exclusively via Android fan T-Mobile USA in the US in time for Christmas. Under the name of Dext, the device will also be available with Orange in the UK and France, Telefonica in Spain and America Movil in Latin America. None of the operators have yet revealed pricing or tariffs for the device.

The beleaguered US manufacturer has been ratcheting up its Android strategy over the summer, hiring developers and sinking yet more resources into the platform. In July Motorola launched a new Android development resource – MotoDev, which features an app accelerator program and a studio giving developers access to a new suite of Google Android developer tools and programs, along with the opportunity to attend a Motorola summit in San Diego on October 6 for “advanced training and information gathering” on Android.

Through the program, select developers will be able to submit their applications to Motorola, paving the way for successful apps to be distributed through a variety of channels including carrier stores, the Android Market and third party distributors. In addition, the program will offer developers pre-release access to upcoming Motorola devices for testing.

Christy Wyatt, vice president of software platforms and ecosystem at Motorola, said: “We believe Android and open software has the freedom and flexibility to foster innovation, accelerate time to market, and deliver the most personal and customized mobile experiences for consumers.”

Late in 2008, Moto announced plans to slim down its handset platforms portfolio, from over 20 different combinations of operating system, silicon and user interface (UI), to just three handset platforms—Android, Windows Mobile, and its own proprietary OS, P2K, which is used on devices such as the RAZR. As a result, Motorola’s portfolio will shift to the higher end of the handset tier, although the company is gambling that over the next few years, the Android and Windows Mobile platforms will filter down through the mid-level so it can still address the mass market.

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