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Motorola banks on new gadgets, features

Following a disappointing holiday season, the communications giant is trying to get back on track with new products and with enhancements to old ones.

Following a disappointing holiday season, communications giant Motorola is trying to get back on track with new products and a bevy of promises for future features.

The company on Wednesday made a series of announcements for new products and enhancements to old ones. But analysts were unimpressed.

"Ed Zander (the company's new chief executive officer) has some heavy lifting to do," said Paul Sagawa, an analyst with Sanford Bernstein. "I don't think their issues will be resolved by a handful of new products."

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For broadband customers, Motorola will add "smart" antenna technology to its wireless products using new chips developed by Motia. The embedded chips will allow Motorola to offer small and midsize businesses greater Wi-Fi signal reach in offices and homes.

While most antennas on Wi-Fi switches and routers simply detect electronic signals by locking onto the strongest signal they find emanating from a client device, a smart antenna actively searches an area for Wi-Fi signals and blends several weak signals into a strong signal without any prompting from the user. Some Wi-Fi gear use software to provide this function, but the new chips from Motia embed the functionality into silicon, greatly reducing the cost of the feature to consumers.

In addition to the new broadband initiative, Motorola is enhancing its handsets with new features.

Certicom, a provider of wireless security, announced that Motorola has embedded its MovianVPN into the Motorola A760 smart phone.

This phone, which incorporates a small personal computer, personal digital assistant, MP3 player and camera into a single device, will now use an encryption client to transmit data securely over a corporate network. The client, based on Internet Protocol security, (IPSec) encryption protocols, is one-tenth the size of desktop versions, but allows all the same features and functionalities of a full-blown IPSec client.

Motorola also finally announced availability of the V600 phone in the United States. The new phone will make its debut at AT&T Wireless stores nationwide in the next few months. Using technology that spans four different GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) bands, callers will be able to access wireless networks and make phone calls in 125 countries, with data capabilities in 30.

Finally, Motorola extended its relationship with Magic4, a messaging start-up. Last March, the two companies announced an agreement to co-develop instant-messaging clients for Motorola's CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) handsets, including the v310, v360 models, as well as select GSM handsets. Motorola announced that it has taken a minority stake in Magic4. Financial details were not available.

Sanford Bernstein's Sagawa said that Motorola's product enhancements are a step in the right direction, but that the company still needs to focus on delivering innovative products to the market much faster and more cost-effectively than it has in the past.

Motorola suffered this past holiday season when it failed to deliver several new products to the market on time. The V600 was a classic example of this, Sagawa noted. He said that the product had been promised in the United States for several months.

"It's hard to get excited about something that if it had been delivered earlier could have been really exciting," he said. "These handset announcements are a clean-up of the sloppy delivery from the Christmas season."