Motorola plans fewer phones to get bigger bang for its buck

In a candid roundtable discussion, Motorola Mobility's CEO opens up on the company's plans, saying it will focus its resources on fewer phones and ideas.

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Roger Cheng
3 min read
Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha introduces the new MotoActive media player New York City in October. CNET/Bonnie Cha

LAS VEGAS--Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha believes less may be more when it comes to the company's smartphone business.

Jha, speaking at a roundtable discussion with reporters today, said he plans to release fewer models of phones this year than in the past. The company will focus a more concentrated amount of resources on a smaller number of products with the goal of creating better products.

"There's a recognition of a lot of good ideas, but none have broken through," he said. "We're going to present fewer ideas, but we're going to push them more."

Jha's comments come as Motorola last week warned that its fourth-quarter earnings would fall below expectations amid weaker smartphone sales. The company, which is poised to be acquired by Google for $12.5 billion, has had a number of struggles over the past year, including delayed products and the tepid reception to its buzzed-about first tablet.

As a result of delays, the company had a larger number of products coming out at the same time, such as the Droid Bionic and Droid Razr, something it's hoping to avoid repeating. This move would fly in the face of the rest of the industry, which is attempting to churn out as many devices as possible, sometimes with mixed results.

"Over-choice hasn't helped drive the marketplace," he said, but he added that his decision wasn't a reaction to the flood of phones coming to the market.

Jha was frank about a number of topics. He said sales of the Droid Razr were a little low because of the price, and admitted that the pricing issue, which has hurt sales of several of its products, was not something he could control. But the company worked with Verizon to knock the price down to $199.99 with the introduction of the $299.99 Droid Razr Maxx.

Pricing has hurt Motorola elsewhere. Its Xoom tablet was deemed overpriced when it came out earlier this year, and its successor product, the Xyboard, has also been criticized as expensive. Jha admitted it was partly because the carriers are still figuring out the tablet market, and are reluctant to offer too many subsidies for the products. The only area where Motorola has control is on the Wi-Fi-only models. He also noted that a majority of carrier-connected tablets are being purchased by large businesses, rather than individuals.

Jha said that sometime this year the carriers will start offering shared data plans, which he believes could help spur sales of multiple devices.

Likewise, Motorola's laptop-dock, which allowed you to plug in a phone and use it as if it were a stripped-down Webtop interface. It initially came out with the Atrix 4G on AT&T but moved to other high-end smartphones and didn't fare well, largely because of the price. Jha acknowledged that the Webtop laptop-dock accessory for its high-end smartphones hasn't been a financial success, but it's something the company would improve on.

"We believe in the idea," Jha said.

He also admitted the experience was as good as he would have liked, but believes Android 4.0, or Ice Cream Sandwich, could solve a lot of problems and improve the product.