Monday, October 20, 2008

Motorola Android phone?

Business Week reports that Motorola is showing its prototype Android-based phone to carriers, but it’s not due until at least April. The project is staffed in the Bay Area by employees of Good Technology, the push e-mail company acquired by Moto in January 2007.

GigaOM notes that incoming Moto handset CEO Sanjay Jha has good ties to Google from his time as COO of Qualcomm. (Qualcomm chips are in the first gPhone from ATC).

While the timing would support Motorola’s planned jettisoning spinoff of its handset division, Forbes speculates that due to the financial crisis, Motorola may have to push back the date.

Hat tip: Kevin Maney in Conde Nast Portfolio.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Verizon picks BlackBerry over gPhone

Beyond merely selling various commodity Korean phones, Verizon Wireless needed a phone to compete with the iPhone and the recent T-Mobile G1 (aka gPhone). They went with the new BlackBerry 9530, which many see as an iPhone killer.

Many have said that the BlackBerry (“Storm”) has Qualcomm inside, but strangely, there is no Qualcomm press release this week to correspond to the one it issued two weeks ago with the G1 intro.

The 9530 supports the widest available range of 3G networks: EV-DO on two bands of cdma2000 networks, as well HSDPA/HSUPA or EDGE on five different bands of GSM or W-CDMA service. Those specs exactly match the Qualcomm MSM7210A, a new chip at the heart of more than a dozen new phones released this year.

At least one site claims the phone uses a Marvel PXA930, but Marvell doesn’t claim the phone either. The PXA930 is in the BlackBerry Bold, but since it doesn’t support cdma2000, the association is implausible.

Interestingly, the Verizon Wireless parent Vodafone will not be carrying the 9530, but the non-CDMA BlackBerry 9500. That means that Verizon subscribers can roam to Vodafone in Europe (as with the BlackBerry 8830), but Vodafone subscribers have to roam to one of Verizon’s competitors when they come to the US.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The LG-Samsung store

Once upon a time, Verizon Wireless was America’s largest cellphone carrier. Today it remains a close second to AT&T — 26.2% vs. 27.5% of America’s 265 million subscribers.

Wandering by the mall Saturday, it struck me that Verizon has become the country’s largest sales agent for two Korean cellphone makers — Samsung and LG.

A decade ago, CDMA phones (then with Sprint PCS or AirTouch), were mostly made by Qualcomm. Soon Motorola started making CDMA phones, and were joined by a number of Japanese makers like Sharp and Kyocera (after it bought out Qualcomm’s handset business in 1999) who adapted the designs they made for the two Japanese CDMA carriers, KDD and IDO (who later merged to form KDDI).

At two Verizon booths on Saturday, there were a handful of smartphones from Palm, Motorola and some Windows Mobile clients. But almost everything else was either from Samsung (#2 in the world) or LG (#5).

Of course, the reason that these two Korean makers are dominating CDMA phone sales is the 1991 decision of Korean industry to adopt CDMA, later ratified by the Korean government. Korean carriers went live with CDMA in 1996, at almost exactly the same time as Hong Kong and the U.S. were also rolling out their first 2G CDMA systems.

Of the top 5 handset makers, Nokia once gave up on CDMA and has recently made a token effort to renter the market. #3 Motorola has all sorts of problems with its mobile phone operations, and its weakness in CDMA phones is just a reflection of its larger problems. #4 Sony Ericsson — with only a minimal presence in the US — gave up on the North American CDMA market five years ago, but still sells CDMA phones in its home market of Japan.

Statistics say that Motorola retains its lead at 35% of the US market — the combined share of #2 and #3 Samsung (18%) and LG (17%). The Q1 2008 stats showed Nokia in 4th at 8%, RIM (North America’s leading smartphone maker) at 5th, just ahead of Sanyo (Sprint’s major handset supplier).

However, I’m curious who’s buying all those Motorola phones, because I don’t see many on sale at the mall. Around here, I do see the Motorola Razr with teens and adults alike, but with adults I more often see smartphones like the iPhone, Treo or Blackberry.

Teenagers and college students seem to favor texting phones with the slide-out keyboard like the T-Mobile Sidekick; here the LG VX9800 and Samsung Glyde help Verizon stay competitive for these customers. That Verizon uses BREW for its downloadable apps means that these LG and Samsung phones have Qualcomm inside.

Andy gets his medal

Last week, Andrew Viterbi got his National Medal of Science. The USC Viterbi School marks the event with a press release and a video.

UCLA issued a press release for another Linkabit founder, Len Kleinrock, who also get his medal the same day. It doesn’t mention Viterbi, who was a UCLA professor before leaving to run Linkabit.

At least MIT — where both men got their master’s degree in EE — mentions both men equally, as does the White House press release.