Motorola pushes ahead with Android phones

The handset maker 'is investing as much as anybody' in Android, executive says

Motorola Inc. is on track to have Android-based smartphones on sale in stores in time for the busy Christmas buying season, and will launch them with multiple carriers in regions around the globe, the head of the company's mobile device division said Thursday.

When the Android-based platform starts shipping from Motorola late in the third quarter, it will be leveraged across multiple devices, said Sanjay Jha, co-CEO of Motorola as well as CEO of the mobile devices unit.

"We are in detailed discussions with multiple carriers around the world about a few of our Android smartphones that we plan to deliver in fourth quarter, and we'll deliver meaningful products in the fourth quarter," Jha said during an earnings call Thursday.

At one point, Jha said Motorola is "looking to consolidate to one platform," but a spokesman said Jha was referring to the smartphone push coming late in the year, and not on all cell phones. "He is not ruling out other platforms, but was referring to this release of smartphones," a spokesman later explained. Jha has previously been critical of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Mobile operating system, which is used on some Motorola devices. The criticism has led some analysts to question the level of Motorola's commitment to Windows Mobile.

Jha praised Android, noting that 3,000 applications have already been developed for it. Motorola will focus on integrating messaging and social networking with the Android devices, he said, and will offer a range of devices in the high- and mid-tier price ranges. "We are probably investing as much as anybody on the Android platform," he added.

Motorola is still interested in spinning off its mobile phone division, Jha added. However, he wouldn't provide a timeframe except to say that the timing depends on three factors: the health of the telecom and handset industries, access to credit, and developments in the mobile device business.

Overall, the mobile device unit posted a staggering loss in sales for the first quarter, with sales of US$1.8 billion, down 45% from a year ago, he said.

For all of Motorola, sales in the first quarter were $5.3 billion, down from $7.4 billion for the same quarter in 2008, the company reported.

Greg Brown, co-CEO with Jha, said Motorola is "moderating" its investment in WiMax research and development because of reduce market demand, although he said the company still has two dozen contracts for the wireless technology that are worth $5 million to $6 million in revenue.

He also noted Motorola's interest in another high-speed wireless technology called LTE, and noted the company had demonstrated its LTE capabilities at two recent trade conferences. He said Motorola still hopes to be an LTE provider for Verizon Wireless when the carrier announces its intentions later this year.

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