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Motorola's camera phone to miss holiday rush

The handset maker is late delivering camera phones to U.S. carriers. Some, like Verizon Wireless, have made other plans with rival handset makers for the holiday shopping season.

As the holiday shopping season approaches, Verizon Wireless and Cingular Wireless said Motorola is late delivering a long-promised line of camera phones, and Verizon said it had filled the gap by going with a product from another company.

Representatives from both carriers--which have a combined 57 million subscribers, or nearly a third of all U.S. wireless dialers--confirmed the delays on Friday.

"We expected to have camera phones from Motorola by now," Verizon Wireless spokesman Jim Gerace said.

A Motorola representative had no immediate comment. The company told analysts in July that it would have camera phones available "by the fourth quarter," but it has not set a date for their release yet, according to materials posted on Motorola's Web site.

With each week that passes, Motorola is losing ground to other major handset makers using the popularity of camera phones to help climb out of a three-year drop in handset sales. These phones can take and store pictures, and carriers are also offering advanced services, such as the ability to e-mail the photos, sometimes with sound recordings, from one phone to another.

Verizon's Gerace said that with the holiday shopping season set to start in the next few weeks, his company had decided to round off its lineup by offering a camera phone made by LG Electronics.

Cingular Wireless spokesman Clay Owen said Cingular hoped to have one of the two Motorola camera phones, the V400, in its holiday promotion, which generally starts around October. "But now it looks like they might make it in stores by Dec. 15," Owen said. "That makes it difficult to build up a promotion."

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Motorola was also late delivering camera phones to U.S. carrier AT&T Wireless.

NEC and Matsushita both now lead the camera phone market, each supplying 15 percent of 24 million camera phones shipped during the first half of 2003, with Nokia in third and a percentage point behind, according to market research firm Strategy Analytics.

This is the second bit of bad news for Motorola in recent days. Last week, the company announced that its longtime chief executive, Chris Galvin, was stepping down.