Christy Wyatt on How Motorola Plans to Stand Out From the Android Pack
Even as it prepares to be swallowed up by Google, Motorola Mobility is hardly standing still.
One of the key driving forces behind the company is Christy Wyatt, a former Palm and Apple executive, now corporate vice president and general manager
for mobile devices at Motorola. In an interview earlier this month, Wyatt talked about how the company is trying to stand out in an increasingly crowded Android field.
Here’s a partial transcript of our interview:
AllThingsD: Where do you see the opportunity to invest to make your Android devices better than others?
Christy Wyatt: We’ve focused over the past year in four key areas. They’ve moved a little bit away from what I’d call aesthetics and focused more on user experience and performance.
The first is modality. You saw us earlier in the year launch our first Web-top platform with the lap dock. This is really the concept that your phone is really enough for you 80 or 90 percent, but sometimes — if you are writing a long article, for example — you are going to want a keyboard. That doesn’t mean you want a different device. You might want a different way of accessing the device you are already using. You don’t have to be carrying 52 cords and 52 chargers and multiple data plans.
The second one is this concept of “content anywhere.” We’re not a content company, per se. We don’t have a music store or a video store or a book store. We’ve really never gone down that path, because we believe the consumer has many viable paths for buying content already.
From a consumer’s perspective, I’m less interested in selling you yet another 99-cent song. I’m more interested in giving you an integrated view of where all your stuff is. When I say, “show me my music,” I mean all of my music, not just the stuff I bought from the store on that particular device.
We acquired a company, and we’ve launched a new experience, called MotoCast, which is essentially that streaming experience.
The third one is this concept of our device performance. It’s not okay if your battery runs out of power. It’s just not. You are too reliant on these products. Things like the smart actions and the smart rules and devices becoming more intelligent.
What are smart actions? Because I don’t think a lot of people have heard of them.
Sure. Smart actions are essentially your device is monitoring its own performance behavior. If it starts to notice there are things it could be doing better, it will make a gentle suggestion to the user. Something like, “I notice that your battery is running low, if you wanted to dim the screen and turn off a certain network setting then you will get better battery performance.” And, if you are open to it, “Would you like your phone to continue making those kind of suggestions?” For the consumer who is not really aware of things like battery-saver mode or Wi-Fi offloading, this is a very consumer-friendly way.
The fourth one is clearly around enterprise. Forty percent of mobile devices are going to work, in one way, shape or form. In order for Android to be fully participating in that community — there’s security, device management, data management, network management — there’s a variety of things we’ve built into the core Android platform for Motorola devices to make them business-ready.
You are in charge of this enterprise business. Am I correct that the challenge has been getting Android accepted in the enterprise, more than Motorola losing out to, say, HTC?
I think our focus has been less on the other Android venders. There’s a very strong device vendor already behind the firewall. Those users are looking for alternatives. We want to make sure Android is the first choice they think of when they go to move to another platform. Make no mistake, Motorola very much wants to sell devices and have the greatest market share behind the firewall, but we are very comfortable in our ability to compete and getting that done, provided Android is accepted behind the firewall.
If I were to look at 2011, I’d say you had a bunch of interesting devices. But it wasn’t necessarily consistent throughout the year. You had some challenges with Bionic.
If you were to ask us, we were very happy with the way we turned out in 2011. We spun out as a separate company. Motorola split into two companies. It was our first year on our own as a standalone mobility company. We had some fantastic product hits.
The bottom line is the mobile business is a hits business. There’s some that are blockbusters and there are some that are not. But, in general, I think we are very happy with where we ended up.
I walked away from CES last year saying one of the most interesting things was the Atrix with the Web-top software and the lap dock. My sense was it was really innovative, and it wasn’t quite ready for primetime, in terms of some of the experience characteristics. Are we going to see a lot of people carrying these things in 2012?
I think it was a very bold move for us to introduce this concept of modality and really shoot for this device, this processor, this connection being the primary connection in your life. I do think you are going to see us continue to go down that path. That can take many forms.
You are going to start to see individuals use multiple screens, and using similar connections and similar experiences across multiple screens.
If you look back at the year, where are some of the things where Android moved furthest, and what do you think are some of the things still on the to-do list as an ecosystem?
I think on both of those lists would be the tablets.
Especially with the Xyboards and some of the tablets, we’re seeing products that are thinner, sexier for the consumer … are more ready for business. As you start to see what is coming out with Ice Cream Sandwich, you start to see some evolution in the user experience.
I think tablets have come a long, long way. Adoption of Android tablets in the broad consumer sense, and especially with enterprise users, is still something we would like to focus on for the next year.
A lot of that has to do with the application ecosystem, making sure we have the applications that we need. Ice Cream Sandwich goes a long way to unify the developer communities across screens.
Do you think there will be fewer stronger competitors in that space? We’ve seen everyone who has ever made a phone and everyone who has made a PC say, “Let’s make an Android tablet.”
That clearly had an effect on the Android market. It was instantly flooded. That ended up creating a lot of consumer confusion.
At the end of the day, there are certain brands that consumers trust. If you are looking for the low-cost leader, you are going to look for the low-cost leader and you are going to find that in a variety of different places. That’s generally not where you find us. People tend to go to the Motorola brand where they are looking for a brand that they trust for reliability, for quality.