This is the moment in which Motorola (NYSE: MOT) shows us whether they have what it takes to turn the company around.
At GigaOm’s Mobilize in San Francisco today, Motorola’s CEO of Mobile Devices Sanjay Jha took the stage in front of a packed and energized auditorium, to say its answer to its problems is “Moto Blur,” a social-networking platform that the company has developed to run on top of the Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Android operating system. The first phone will be the Motorola CLIQ, which will be sold exclusively by T-Mobile USA. Jha: “The Android operating system gives us the platform to mobilize the internet. The bottom line is that it’s a modern, well-architected platform written from the ground up.” (Release.)
T-Mobile’s Cole Brodman joined Jha to announce that they will sell the phone exclusively starting in the fourth quarter. No word on how much it will cost. “Our customers are used to seeing innovation from T-Mobile and getting the must-have devices.” He stressed the network will be prepared to handle the additional traffic the device uses, which might become a determining factor going forward as consumers use data and weigh down networks. “Our network is equipped to handle increase in traffic. We have spent $9 billion on the network in the last four years. We have a modern 3G network that will reach 200 million people in the U.S. and reach 250 cities. It is a great time to be introducing a product like this.”
More on how BLUR works after the jump…
The Moto Blur concept aggregates all of your social networks, and then distributes the information into various widgets that are available on the phone’s home screen. Messages get one bucket and status updates in another. The address book also draws from all the networks, providing options for how you contact someone — via SMS, Twitter, email, etc. The phone is linked to a portal online that allows people to track a phone when its lost or from there you can wipe it clean. A user online only has to log back in to a device with a username and password to pick up where they left off.
Pricing for the device was not announced and its unclear what kind of data plan it will require, or whether there’s additional costs involved for the online back-up (Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) charges for a similar service, called MobileMe.). Clearly, the starting price for smartphones as of recently is $200, so to even have a chance at being competitive, Motorola will have to beat that — and better yet, they should beat it.
After the initial announcement this morning, Jha explained in a chat with GigaOm’s Om Malik the idea behind BLUR in terms we understand today — Apple’s iPhone and RIM’s BlackBerry. He said the platform melds Apple’s idea of having access to tons of applications with BlackBerry’s niche of integrating the apps — like email — deeply into the phone. Together, they have the apps and the tight integration. “The iPhone has one, BlackBerry has the other, but we have combined them in a meaningful way for social networking.”
A similar Motorola phone called DEXT will also be distributed internationally with Orange in the UK, Telefonica (NYSE: TEF) in Spain and America Movil in Latin America. Motorola will not stop there. Jha said a second Android phone using Blur will be announced shortly and will be launched in time for the holidays.