Goodbye, Moto? Last Chance on Handsets

So as we know, Motorola Inc. slashed thousands more jobs this week. But more startling is the fact that Motorola’s handset shipments are way, way down: 50 percent year-over-year, as a matter of fact.

Moto’s device-side problems are not new by any stretch of the imagination. There was the plan after all to spin off the division, but that’s now scuttled. We suspect there would be difficulty in finding a buyer. But regardless of its woes, it’s always been able to at least fall back on the enduring success of the Motorola RAZR — the best-selling handset in the United States for the past three years. Well, until this past November at least, when the iPhone officially overtook it.

With the RAZR sailing off into the sunset, Motorola needs a big, big hit. Its belated touchscreen entry was back in October with the Motorola Krave, which sports an odd see-through plastic flip cover. Maybe it was because of that, maybe it was because it got bogged down in the pre-holiday smartphone din, but it failed to gain traction in the market over the holidays.

Some hope lies in the fact that Moto previously announced that all of its smartphones going forward will be based on the Google Android OS, a move that might indicate a radical device rethinking. But leaks in December pointed to rather unexciting product launches being planned.

Moto doesn’t have much time to right the ship. The bottom line is that the company needs a hot device, something new and fresh, and it needs it now. It also needs to be able to make a big market splash with it. But ongoing financial hits and layoffs in any company eats into R&D abilities and resources, not to mention manufacturing timelines, and it just depends on how many backup resources a corporation has to keep going in tough times. Motorola doesn’t seem to have much of a buffer left.

On the insult to injury front, rumor has it the handset division won’t have a booth at CTIA Wireless in April — a venue critical for generating industry buzz for any new launch. However, a CTIA press liaison told us the company will have two booths — one as a general Motorola exhibition space, another as a specific booth for the M2M wireless module business.

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