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Will Motorola Rise From the Ashes? 128

An anonymous reader writes "According to ZDNET the once almighty Motorola is going to split into two companies, 'If the split goes through as planned, what will remain will be the "broadband and mobility solutions" business, which includes enterprise mobility, government and public safety, and Motorola's home and networks divisions.' Engadget claims to have an insider's email that details where it all went wrong, paying particular attention to mismanagement at the highest levels. What makes all of this even more of a shame though is that Motorola's latest product lineup seems to be receiving critical acclaim but with the company in so much termoil, will it ever rise out of the ashes?"
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Will Motorola Rise From the Ashes?

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  • by puto ( 533470 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:07PM (#22874880) Homepage
    Moto split up in the 90s, 3com swallowed them. You might remember the bit sufer modems of the time that all support was dropped from.

    The second split in 10 or 15 years.

    The problem with Moto is that they were always good at engineering, but not good at asthetics. Now they are good at asthetics, and sometimes engineering.

    • by fatphil ( 181876 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:21PM (#22875020) Homepage
      Moto split earlier this decade. Half of it (the semiconductor, comms stack, and automotive parts) became Freescale Semiconductor.
      • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:14PM (#22875616)
        Not quite. A large part of their semiconductor business (mostly discrete, analog, etc.) became "On Semiconductor" (what a stupid name). The PPC stuff, RF stuff, and automotive stuff went to Freescale.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by frank378 ( 736832 )
          Almost...the automotive stuff (aka "telematics") was consolidated under one roof in the Deer Park IL facility and sold to a German company called Continental.
      • by TigerNut ( 718742 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:27PM (#22875776) Homepage Journal
        For me, that's the "real" Motorola. The folks that architected the 6809, the 68000, the 68k peripheral set, and from there designed embedded CPUs that really were single-chip systems. They had far-reaching vision when they designed the 68k... then they dropped the ball with the 88k RISC architecture but knocked another one out of the park with the PowerPC embedded MCUs and CPU cores.

        The company I worked with at the time was a competitor of Motorola in the cellular handset market, and so we reviled them for their chutzpah in patenting RF power control and modulation schemes, but their micros and their automotive power semiconductors were awesome back in the day.

        • They were impressive back in the day, the processor of choice for Apple. I learned assembler on a 6809 (a spanking new Tandy Color Computer [old-computers.com], if you must know, back in '84). For a 'small' computer, it was a LOT more computer than people gave it credit for. Likewise, the Atari ST [old-computers.com] and the Amiga [old-computers.com], all killed by Lotus, which gave us the term 'killer app' in that it ran on IBMs & clones, under DOS, and was the business software of choice.

          Damn, I'm getting old...

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            This wouldn't be Slashdot without a minor nit-pick: Apple went with Motorola chips later in their life, but until the late eighties most of their CPU choices were from Commodore (specifically their MOSTEK subdivision), with variants of the 6502 used for the Apple I, II, III, and the various successors to the Apple II (IIe, IIc, GS, etc.) Only the Lisa and Apple Macintosh had Motorola CPUs.

            I "learned" assembler on a Z80A and then learned assembler on a 6809 via the Dragon 32 CoCo clone. Amazing chip, an 8

            • "This wouldn't be Slashdot without a minor nit-pick: ... the world sucks.

              A case in point; beware whenever you see a journalist quote the beginning and end of someones words, and substituting "..." in the middle.


              The world went with Windows, which happened to be x86 only (with a failed attempt at DEC Alpha support for NT at one point.) So yes, the world does suck, but for a slightly different reason then your analysis suggests.

    • by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) * on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:21PM (#22875028) Homepage Journal
      Their company may turn around like HP did [aol.com](please see the 10-year chart for the whole picture) after they boot the incompetent upper management like HP booted Carly Fiorina(note: she ran HP from 1999-2005 and oversaw the HP/Compaq merger, among "other things").

      On the other hand, it may be interesting to see what would happen if Motorola split "for real" just as Agilent split from HP.
      • by frank_adrian314159 ( 469671 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:44PM (#22875212) Homepage
        ... after they boot the incompetent upper management like HP booted Carly Fiorina...

        Hey! Speaking of which - guess what she's doing now [huffingtonpost.com]! Yet another reason to avoid McCain like the plague!

      • Obviously tech people dislike Fiorina. She was well known for layoffs and (support of) outsourcing. But as far as business goes, she did leave the reinvented HP in a good position in 2005.

        The 10-year chart isn't too useful because of the dot-bomb. You'll see the same kind of movement for MSFT, LNUX, and other at-the-time-hot tech stocks.
      • The irony of the HP/Agilent split is that HP was originally an electronics corporation, i.e. Agilent, before they started dabbling in the PC field. (Yes, I realize PCs are a subset of electronics). The Agilent folks are still bitter about the fact that the computer division took the HP name during the split; like a divorce wherein the husband is forced to change his surname.
        • by cowbutt ( 21077 )
          The Agilent folks are still bitter about the fact that the computer division took the HP name during the split

          ...and that the one they ended up with has such an unfortunate anagram...

    • by tulmad ( 25666 )
      Don't forget the split of all of their defense contracting business around 2001 as well. General Dynamics swallowed up most of it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by cb8100 ( 682693 )

      Actually, it's the third split. Motorola spun off it's semi-conductor division in 1999. Business Week article [businessweek.com]

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:57PM (#22875386)
      Moto split up in the 90s, 3com swallowed them.

      Fact check please. [wikipedia.org]

      Ah, but it was said with such certitude...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:14PM (#22875618)
      I worked in Motorola's research labs for about 5 years. I've been out of that for the last year and a half.

      My experience there was there was a lot of ideas being bounced around, and anytime one idea caught traction, Motorola would pander it around, loose interest, and sell it off to someone else to make a fortune on. Eventually, as Zander came on, Motorola drastically scaled back R&D, shutting down whole divisions doing hard science. Then, it came to pass that all R&D projects had to have a 'buyer' in one of the profit making sectors, which led to a scramble amongst the engineers. Suddenly folks were backstabbing one another to try to get a project that GEMS or mobile devices wanted done. I once tried to get the specs on a product that we were supposedly trying to hawk to consumers so I could extend the functionality, only to be ignored or strung out waiting for info. The constant 'fires' I had to put out just to get work done were grating.

      I'm not surprised in the least about all this. The writing was on the wall when SPS split off into Freescale. Motorola just refuses to leverage any core competency at all. It's all about being tragically super cool to sell products.

      I think mobile devices will tank unless they get someone in there to beat it into shape. GEMS, or what's left of Motorola now, will hang in only because they already have massive infrastructure for gov't and etc. If someone else got into this market, Motorola would be gone.
    • I think the problem with Motorola is more with their upper management. Motorola has great engineers and great ideas, but the chiefs get rid of both through attrition. Nepotism is rampant throughout the company. The Galvin family bleeds the company dry and sucks every bit of air out of the room. It's heartbreaking sitting at a table with Moto engineers and a lot of liquor, listening to how bleak life is when you feel like you're playing Russian roulette every time you pull into employee parking. And that's n
  • Critics? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    ...is that Motorola's latest product lineup seems to be receiving critical acclaim

    WTF do critics know? It's what the market wants that counts.

  • Test of time (Score:2, Insightful)

    Moto has stood the test of time, can't quite see them falling off the radar now.
    • Re:Test of time (Score:5, Insightful)

      by superstick58 ( 809423 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:58PM (#22875394)
      I'm sure many people felt that way about Bear Stearns not long ago, and there was also this company called Enron that originated in the 30's... A company is not safe from falling apart if it is poorly managed no matter how much history it has.
    • Where's their component division? Gone. What do they make these days? Cell phones. CHEAP cell phones, like this C139 that I'm surprised still works a month after I bought it, with a whacked software pack that won't let me toggle back out of all caps in text mode.

      It doesn't even make a good paperweight.

  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:11PM (#22874910) Homepage Journal
    In researching the myriad claims raised in this letter -- which we believe to be true -- we also discovered a number of other unsettling things about Motorola's corporate past in the last five years, such as certain gross corporate excesses demanded by Zander and his inner circle (like a small fleet of extravagant private jets, where most companies that size might only have one, if any), or the fact that Motorola's current CEO, Greg Brown, is so technologically out of touch he refuses to use a computer for communications, and has all his email correspondences printed by his secretary and replied to by dictation.

    The sad thing is that this is way too common in American corporations today. Someone much smarter than I(I think it was in the Economist) remarked that the modern day American CEO doesn't get to the top because they have vision for great products, they get to the top because they are connected and are great at playing financial games. This makes for great short term gains at the expense of any sort of longevity(but by that point the CEO has his golden parachute and is long gone). Carl Icahn also lamented at how woefully out of touch the modern American CEO is, and how much their exorbitant salaries and total lack of accountability and vision make American companies so topheavy they are quickly becoming uncompetitive.

    Motorola thought that it could farm everything out and somehow just sit back and reap the benefits of others labor. It was wrong, and yet others are lining up to jump off the same cliff that they leapt from....
    • by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:35PM (#22875136)
      Yup. I can personally attest to that. At the last company, the CEO was forced out due to backdating shenanigans (i.e., the stock game that all tech companies in Silicon Valley played). The guy who took over promised at every meeting that he was prepared to take it to the next level, that we were going to kick everyone's butt, etc. Within one year, the company had been sold, and he probably took a 10million+ golden parachute into retirement (the company hadn't even gotten to $1billion in yearly sales) - all for having performed exactly one job; selling the company to someone else. Not only that, but the price for the company had been boosted by financial games with revenue recognition that looked great on paper for the next quarter, but which absolutely wrecked long-term sales. 2 years after takeover, we're finally recovering from the idiocy. It's only because we are the unquestioned leaders in a red-hot market that the company didn't just completely tank right after the sale.

      Since then, I've had a very dim view of CEOs and the games they play. I've gotten to the point where I think that a number of companies succeed in spite of their CEOs, not because. Not only that, but the only time that CEOs are held accountable is if they've done something criminal. Being merely incompetent and raiding corporate coffers is enough to get awarded an 8 to 9 figure severance package. Personally, I compare it to someone joining a WoW guild, raiding the Guild bank for everything that's worth anything, and then being handed everyone's gold as an incentive to leave the guild. Despicable doesn't even come close to describing what I think of thse CEOs.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I can tell you this: after decades contracting in companies from small to enormous, I cannot recall a single project that failed due to lack of technical ability. It was almost always a management problem - whether project management or higher up. So many times I've said something point blank to the effect of "If you do that it will cost you in the end", and watched the heads nod in understanding and agreement. Then they proceed to do exactly what I warned them against. Then later they bitch about "why is t

      • by thanatos_x ( 1086171 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @08:13PM (#22876230)
        It is almost entirely true. In my view America used to relish competition, because it gave us a chance to show off how great we were. We knew we were better than everyone else, and if anyone else had a problem with that, they could challenge us.

        We now seem to be a shell of our former selves. Companies cry to the US Government because of unfair competition, even when most people on the street know what the CEOs don't. The reason why you're doing poorly isn't because the other countries have an unfair advantage, it's because you've adopted myopic views. Profit is created through accounting rather than actual value. Investment in future is disregarded, marketing is key. When you do develop a strategy that works, you take it to the Nth degree, ignoring that the market doesn't need 20 colors for their RAZR or an SUV that can tow a building. It's become all style over substance. Lee Iacocca once ran advertisements for cars of "if you can find a better car, buy it." We need that confidence again, not flags flying in the background and an "American Revolution"

        At some point we need to stop this slash and burn style of management, or we will falter. Let's accept that we have competition and we actually need to try, that we can't go on forever simply by chanting "We're so great", we need to shut up and let it be implied by our actions.

        For those who want an interesting look at the current situation, spoken better than I can do, I'd refer you to Mr. Iacocca's except from his latest book. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article17516.htm [informatio...house.info]
    • I am convinced that Index tracker funds are evil.

      These funds only attempt to match a particular index, so they have no reason to invest resources to to maximise the profits of companies that they own (or rather, to prevent abuses that reduce stockholder value). Resources to work with companies that they hold cost money and these funds try to match the indix as closely as possible with minimum overhead.

      Hence, there are large stockholdings in the hands of entities that really don't care. That's part of the re
      • by vux984 ( 928602 )
        These funds only attempt to match a particular index, so they have no reason to invest resources to to maximise the profits of companies that they own (or rather, to prevent abuses that reduce stockholder value). Resources to work with companies that they hold cost money and these funds try to match the indix as closely as possible with minimum overhead.

        index tracking funds are designed allow -small- investors the ability to maintain a diversified portfolio without being eaten alive by transaction costs.

        • Furthermore, many indexes like the S&P500 have profitability requirements, so if a company is being consistently mismanaged it should fall off the index, and trigger a sell-off of any shares held by the index-tracking funds.

          So what? The outrageous packages that some CEOs get these days are often unrelated to the performance of the share price, so the execs don't really care if their company drops out of the index. Worst case, they will get a nice golden handshake for having destroyed the value of the c

          • by vux984 ( 928602 )
            So what?

            If the index funds drop out of the indices, then the ETFs will sell, and then the company will only be held by real investors and actively managed funds -- shareholders which cannot be ignored.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Grishnakh ( 216268 )
      It's not just American CEOs. I work at a somewhat-American semiconductor company (has locations in USA, Israel, India, Romania, and other places), and our French CEO just left with a huge golden parachute after mismanaging us.
      • by treeves ( 963993 )
        Freescale? Hmm, seem to recall that company having something to do with Motorola...
        Well, at least the new guy knows something about the semiconductor biz...

        Interesting quote from Mayer from Sept. 2006:
        One of Freescales long-term technology commitments has been to MRAM, but can it succeed?

        MRAM has the potential to be widely used, it has to go down the cost curve, replies Mayer. Today it is niche. There is nothing intrinsically in the technology that says it cant go down the cost curve. I dont kno
    • by MaWeiTao ( 908546 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:53PM (#22876036)
      I've gotten the impression that one of the big reasons why American companies run into all these problems is because executives and management all have business or economic degrees. They don't really understand what it is the companies they run do, nor do they seem to care.

      That's why we end up with companies like Chrysler hiring the former CEO of Home Depot as their new CEO. What in the hell does a home improvement retailer have to do with an automobile manufacturer? To these people everything is "product". It's an abstraction with no bearing on reality. This why they're so quick to outsource. It's why they're willing to dump obscene amounts of money into marketing instead of research and development. American companies seem to take more pride in "inventing" a brand than they do in producing a real product. Everything always comes off as a gimmick to sucker people into buying their products.

      I think Motorola is plagued with the same problem as many other American companies face. They're looking for that one big hit. Instead of following a path of patient improvement and building the overall portfolio they bank everything on a single product. In the process they neglect everything else. When they do come upon something popular they then proceed to milk it to death. The media doesn't help with all their gushing on how the company has turned around their fortunes. They rest on their laurels and when consumers grow tired of the product they find themselves struggling all over again.

      I expect Motorola to keep plodding along as they have in recent years. Although, I wouldn't be surprised if they decide to outsource their entire mobile phone business. More than that, they'll dump their design and R&D departments and instead just buy crap hones directly from the Chinese market and rebrand them as Motorolas. The twit responsible for this will be touted as an innovator. Some day the Chinese will realize they don't need American companies and start selling to consumers directly.

      When it comes down to it, American companies are quickly turning themselves into nothing more than middlemen. I wouldn't be so bothered by what these CEOs earn if they actually contributed something of substance to these companies. Unfortunately they seem to exist only to make themselves and their shareholders wealthy.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I wouldn't be so bothered by what these CEOs earn if they actually contributed something of substance to these companies. Unfortunately they seem to exist only to make themselves wealthy.

        There. Fixed that for you.

      • It's why they're willing to dump obscene amounts of money into marketing instead of research and development.
        One of our local Kansas City area companies (Garmin) was profiled in the business section of our paper. When the CEO was asked what would happen on the inevitable day when the PR and marketing flacks outnumbered the engineers he answered, "We'll hire more engineers." That is the kind of attitude that makes a corporation world class.
      • by gtall ( 79522 )
        Precisely! Business School Product understands nothing about manufacturing, engineering, science...all the things that go into the stuff they manage and sell.

        There is somewhat of a paradox built into modern business of a sufficient size. The engineers and scientists that created the product eschew management, marketing, and sales because it isn't fun. By default, the company gets run by the people who do enjoy management, marketing, and sales; they are the people who don't get the underlying technology lead
      • Abstract skills (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sjbe ( 173966 )

        I've gotten the impression that one of the big reasons why American companies run into all these problems is because executives and management all have business or economic degrees.

        Bob Nardelli (the fellow you used as an example) joined GE in 1971 as an entry-level manufacturing engineer. I think you would be VERY surprised at the diversity of backgrounds in top management. Yes many do have business degrees but there is a good reason for that. If you don't understand finance and accounting you can NOT run a major corporation. Finance and accounting are to managers what math is to physicists or reading is to, well... anyone. You can't get far without some kind of training. It ca

      • While I don't necessarily disagree with the overall thrust of your arguments (although I think everyone I've read in this thread so far is just looking at the failures and not the successes in current American business ... creative destruction, baby!), your point about the Home Depot CEO getting that position at Chrysler is slightly off:

        No way did that idiot, one of the most reviled CEOs in recent memory (check it out), get the position for his poor Home Depot performance and experience. He got it becau

  • some kind of new exciting alternative energy product? If we could merely tap the termoil produced by 10 American CEOs we would have enough energy in a year to power all the neon signs of Tokyo and Shanghai for decades to come!
  • Goodbye, Moto (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:15PM (#22874958)

    What makes all of this even more of a shame though is that Motorola's latest product lineup seems to be receiving critical acclaim

    But so what?

    In the US market, consumers have taken it as given that whatever interesting features a manufacturer builds into its hardware, the carriers will either disable them outright or make them into carrier-branded pay-per-use features.

    Camera? Pseudo-GPS location services? Directions/navigation? Local restaurants? Even something as simple as using your PC's desktop wallpaper as a background image is pay-per-use. Web browser? Nope, pay-per-byte. Music/Video? Nope, browse your carrier's licensed pile of top 40 crap. Better mic/speaker for actually making phone calls? Nope, it's all compressed down to underwater-quality-burbling by the carriers anyway.

    This situation isn't unique to Motorola; carrier lockdown has made wireless phones a commodity, and has threatened all manufacturers. What's the difference between a Motorola ABC or a Nokia XYZ when every potential differentiating feature has been disabled by every carrier?

    • I haven't seen anything like that with my new phone. Granted, it's a Blackberry Pearl, but T-Mobile hasn't crippled it one bit. The camera, BBMaps (which will be upgraded for pGPS and POI next week), web browser, media (videos/music), backgrounds, are all untouched, and the web/email service is 20$ + the voice service for all-you-can-eat. I can even (gasp) set ringtones from my private audio collection!
      • I haven't seen anything like that with my new phone.

        Then you havent been looking too hard! Sure you can set your own web bookmarks, but they're in a subfolder that is always closed, at the bottom of TMobile's huge list of 'standard' for-pay bookmarks that you cant change. And that default web search? All results are redirected through TMobile's servers, selective search results for pay, graciously replacing ads with their own, reformatting content, and generally messing with web operations for their own p

        • Isn't there some way to reset that? I have a custom ROM image on my HTC TyTN II (Technically an AT&T Tilt), and despite HTC's lack of a proper video driver for the phone, even with the stock ROM, one can soft reset the phone when it tries to apply the customizations, and voila, no AT&T bs.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by damsa ( 840364 )
        Your example proves the point. RIM is a Canadian company and T-Mobile's parent company is German.
      • Alltel hasn't crippled my RAZR V3a file transfer. You just get a copy of Motorola Phone Tools and your good. You can even do it without that. No more buying ring tones or wallpaper.

        now when I get a phone call from an unknown source it just shows the number and not the name too. You gotta pay extra for that now. Ditto for web access which doesn't even work off of half of the towers around here if you have it.

        You can use your cell phone for internet access at cheaper rate than a card or dongle but I do
    • Re:Goodbye, Moto (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:46PM (#22875230) Journal
      Last figures I saw showed that the US mobile phone market was around 7% of the global mobile market. That's barely even significant, and considering how hostile it is to hardware manufacturers it's probably one I wouldn't bother competing in. It's not even as if it's worth it for the marketing - no one buys a phone because it's popular in the USA.
      • Those figures must be very old. Last I saw [wirelessan...lenews.com], the US's share was 16% of the market, comparable in size to Europe.
      • was around 7% of the global mobile market.

        Which means absolutely nothing without a) context and b) citation. Is it 7% by what? Volume of phones? Dollars spent? Number of subscribers? What? And without some kind of citation, it could just be another example of how 74% of statistics are made up on the spot.

    • Not so crippled (Score:2, Interesting)

      by sarysa ( 1089739 )
      I work with mobile phones by profession, and can tell you this isn't true.

      What is NOT crippled, with rare exceptions:
      - Any phone that supports SD cards will allow the user to use anything except applications and themes from that SD card. My personal Motorola phone's ringtone resides on an SD card.
      - USB cables are another backdoor, and many manufacturers put the enabling software on their website. You can also get USB+software combos from Radio Shack for $20 for virtually any device. Some carriers provid
      • Are there any AT&T devices like that? I've never run into one locked up at all (save for limnitations on MP3 size for the ringtone). Sounds like a VZW thing.
      • You forgot bluetooth. Bluetooth file transfer is often crippled by carriers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dreamchaser ( 49529 )
      Wow, you really need a better plan. I pay a flat rate for unlimited data, and I can put whatever wallpaper I want on my phone, myself, for free. Same with ringtones. It's basically like a little PC, and yes it's a Motorola (the Q to be exact).

      While there is some truth to the tired meme you're promulgating, it's not all as gloomy as your trolling makes it sound.
    • by plover ( 150551 ) *
      Then you need to buy your phones from someone other than your cellular provider. Motorola is happy to sell you their cool new phones at their Motostore, and the lockdown that the American carriers Verizon and Sprint are famous for is simply gone. My direct-from-Motorola phone is free to use Bluetooth to exchange pictures and music, it plays my MP3s via A2DP quite well, I have dropped in a couple of J2ME programs, Opera browses wherever I want and stores whatever bookmarks I choose, and I can drop in a SIM
  • it's funny (Score:1, Troll)

    by operato ( 782224 )
    they're always splitting stuff up or spinning it off. freescale anyone?
  • between all of the fiefdoms which exist within the company.

  • by segedunum ( 883035 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:28PM (#22875074)
    It's yet another classic case of a complete lack of management and leadership, way too much politics and a complete lack of understanding of what products they're selling and how they're produced. The products were actually there, and the people (one who sadly passed away), to achieve success were there, but it's been squandered. They're not the first, and they won't be the last. The management and executives at Motorola are, and were, incompetent losers, and that's the label they carry and the price that they pay for those golden parachutes.

    Desperate measures such as the breaking up of a business is always a big indication that no one has a clue what to do and that people who don't understand what the business does have taken over.
    • by demachina ( 71715 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @10:38PM (#22877400)
      "The management and executives at Motorola are, and were, incompetent losers, and that's the label they carry and the price that they pay for those golden parachutes.

      When you have $100 million in the bank I'm pretty sure you really don't care what label you have to wear. That is the fundamental problem with the current system. Most execs, especially in America, are just looking for the big score to get their FU money. They will do anything to get it including completely cratering the company they are running. There are people like Jobs, Ellison and even Gates who are/were looking to build sustainable empires, but most execs are just climbing the ladder until they make the big score and they could care less what kind of devastation they leave in their wakes or what people think of them after. If they can milk some underlings and be successful and get even richer they will but if they actually have to be smart and work hard to succeed.... why should they, they know they will still be rich when they get cashed out so why not just be a jet setter, party and screw the pooch.

      The preventive measure against this is supposed to be a board of directors who keeps an eye on the execs and make sure they do the right thing for the long term health of the company and shareholders. But most boards are now so incestuous that they are just there to not make waves and get as much FU money out of the deal too. If you get all your friends on your board and you serve on their boards you develop a system where there is no accountability. At the end of the day its only big shareholders like Icahn who have huge stakes in the company that can enforce any accountability. Unfortunately its really hard for someone with a 5 or 10 percent of the stock to do anything unless shareholders band together and elect new boards. The only problem is shareholders aren't really interested in the well being of the company either, they often just want to pop the stock price so they can cash out and make some more FU money.

      The only really good companies are the ones built from scratch where the executives are the same people who risked everything and worked hard to make a company out of nothing, are huge shareholders, and to whom the company is something they built and cherish. They wont do stupid, destructive things because they have their skin in the game. Its the rock star CEO's that are the cancer. They walk in the door and are handed huge stakes in companies that they did nothing to build and nothing to earn. They could care less if they destroy it as long as they cash about before it craters.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Detritus ( 11846 )
        See Bill Agee [wikipedia.org]. He managed to screw over three companies, Boise Cascade, Bendix and Morrison-Knudsen. Plus his current wife became the poster-child for how to fuck your way to the top.
  • Frustrating Shame (Score:5, Informative)

    by ewhac ( 5844 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:43PM (#22875200) Homepage Journal
    I worked at MOTO for two years. Though I wasn't in the mobile division, I got to see a bit of the sausage factory, and was there when the iPhone was announced last year.

    It was obvious to me when Apple announced the iPhone that MOTO was going to have a problem on its hands in very short order. Although the pricing made it unaffordable for Joe Sixpack, it was immediately apparent that Apple had, at a single stroke, completely redefined the cell phone experience. Every mobile product that was more than eight months from release should have been killed immediately, and all the freed up personnel should have then stared at the iPhone demo video for two weeks straight until the UI principles became ingrained. New design ideas could have then flowed out of that. It could even have been done inexpensively.

    Had they done that last year, they would have had new prototypes to show by now, they could have started generating buzz, and could have remained relevant. Now, it will take a hugely expensive effort to keep the division -- possibly the entire company -- afloat.


  • by The Asylum ( 149817 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:04PM (#22875482)
    For my money, Motorola can't go bankrupt fast enough, and I hope they manage to take Sprint/Nextel down with them when they go. I've suffered through three versions of Motorola's Nextel "ruggedized" phones:

    The "i1000 plus" flip phone where the most gentle use would irreparably break the flip cover (which was not available to the service centers as a repair part)

    The "i58sr" which had no screws holding its boards together (so required a weekly drop to the floor to reseat the connectors inside) and made such a loud "BEEP" in your ear when Nextel dropped a call (i.e. constantly) that I threw one through a car windshield. I had people across the room turn their heads and say "Ouch" when the thing would make that sound - I suspect it permanently damaged my hearing. Nextel's service people disavowed any knowledge of the beeping, and referred one to Motorola. Motorola said that nobody had ever reported this problem before, but then acknowledged that they had no actual way to know if anyone had ever actually done so, since they had no bug tracking or ticketing system (I used to call in about once a month to see if they'd fixed it yet). Finally a Motorola guy said that it was definitely a problem, but that Nextel had insisted they add the beep to let users know the calls were dropped, then told the service people to lie about it.

    The "i315" with a smaller screen than the i58sr, but the same text strings in the firmware (so most of the menu items are wider than the screen and are only visible with line scrolling). The developers seemed to have gone through the firmware and deleted any items which were actually useful, such as "Alarm Clock", while adding a digital unit-to-unit radio which only works if you have the cell phone and walkie-talkie functions _disabled_ - a.k.a. a completely useless feature which never made it to other handset models.

    At this point in my life, I wouldn't take a Motorola product - ANY Motorola product - if they paid me to take it - and Nextel has tried repeatedly. (I remember some poor Sprint telemarketer bravely going through her script offering me more and more Motorola junk as I told her more and more how much I despised all things Motorola and Nextel.)

    The minute the FIC FreeRunner is available, I'll toss Motorola and Sprint/Nextel to the curb and never look back. And I'm just a _cellphone_ user - imagine the poor police/fire/rescue folks who are stuck with Motorola digital radios which don't work inside buildings, and which automatically deplete their batteries if they also carry a cellphone...

    • I know EXACTLY the problem you speak of....The whole Moto/Nextel hardware lineup is ... well, a waste of PCBs. I had an i58 that did exactly the same thing, but I didn't toss mine through a windshield, I just quit the employer who forced it upon me.

      Working for a construction company, we're sort of tied to Nextel since our entire industry keeps Nextel afloat as construction crews love the radio, whereas IT Managers tolerate it, and the fact Sprint is nearly giving away their service. I dropped my radio ena
  • by Rog7 ( 182880 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:08PM (#22875526)
    Motorola still sells more RAZR handsets than the iPhone. The problems are with the executives inability to turn unit sales and revenue into net profit, plus a perceived (likely accurate) lack of vision for the future of all of the pies they have their fingers dipped into.

    As soon as losses were reported this year, the stock started its downward spiral. Although frankly, this also reflects modern business that caters to stock more than sustainability (or the comfort of resting on your past success), where any company is only as good as their latest quarter.

    It's certainly not the first time a tech company was mismanaged into the ground despite a healthy position in the market.
  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak.yahoo@com> on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:18PM (#22875662) Homepage Journal
    (For those too young to remember, that is not an oblique open source joke. It's a managerial style joke.)

    Seriously, Motorola would be trivial to turn around. I could manage it in a fraction of the time it would take most executives to, and I'm cheap at the price. So could many geeks who have a similarly broad-based background and no patience with waffling. (Waffling should be left to waffle irons.)

    Of course, no geek capable of running Motorola will ever be offered the job. We're far too outspoken, way too radical, most (myself included) have never been contaminated with a Harvard business degree, and most (again myself included) have managed to avoid managerial roles because we can't stand having zombies as co-workers. (Holy water supersoakers aren't enough.

    Motorola won't hire anyone dangerous enough to succeed. And this is a mission where you need someone who is dangerous, a wildcard, unpredictable. You don't hire a banker to pull off a commando raid, you don't hire a businessman to rescue a disintegrating corporate giant. If they had any sense, they'd be looking for a troublemaker. They WANT Motorola to cause trouble. Causing trouble means they're still breathing. This troublemaker must be able to come up with novel, irrational, but totally brilliant solutions to the current engineering problems. Only problem is, The Doctor doesn't like being pinned down like that.

    There is one other option, which has a better chance of success. Start a new company, a company that, businesswise, should logically not exist, that makes no sense given current attitudes, but sells like nothing else. Then openly and outright offer each and every (decent) engineer at Motorola the option of jumping ship. Don't buy the IP, buy the workforce. What's Motorola going to do? Sue each person individually over non-compete? And will the courts even listen to such a case if Motorola isn't producing anything worth a damn to compete with? Yes, it's playing with fire, but look at every single brilliant engineer, every single brilliant company owner, anyone who has ever truly risen far enough above the masses to see anything worthwhile - they all played with fire, in the most insane and dangerous ways possible. And they made it work for them.

    • That is, without a doubt, the most logical, well thought out, and expertly phrased argument I've seen on slashdot in ages. But, you know the saying, "Don't worry about anyone stealing your ideas; if they're any good you'll have to cram them down peoples' throats!" (forgot the original author of quote)

      In other words, you can watch the demise of Motorolla, with the smug satisfaction that us geeks get when we've shouted the answer, no one has listened, and everyone is suddenly panicked. Don't Panic. Buy po
    • So... you want them to get Steve Jobs?
      • by jd ( 1658 )
        Steve Jobs is less like The Doctor and more like Roger Delgado's Master, or a well-manicured Cyberman.
    • by reiisi ( 1211052 )
      I think the oblique open source joke is the real point.

      Motorola keeps having to abandon its products because they keep having narrow brushes with the open and free world.
    • no geek capable of running Motorola will ever be offered the job. We're far too outspoken, way too radical, most (myself included) have never been contaminated with a Harvard business degree

      So, are you saying that to be the CEO of a company you have to:
      a) Have an IQ of 98 or less.
      b) Must have been an User Car dealer in present or past life.
      c) Should have a Law or CFA degree from either a diploma mill or Harvard.
      d) Should be able to sell not only refrigerators to Eskimos, but should also sign them up for the Service Contracts @ $399/ per fridge excluding sending the fridge from Alaska to CT.
      e) Should NOT have engineer in family.
      f) Should have been a bully in school. Police/School records provi

    • Actually Motorola spun off that business long ago into Freescale [wikipedia.org]
    • by mgblst ( 80109 )
      If you were hired, a complete unknown in the financial world, everybody would lose all hope in Motorola, the stock would tank, nobody would make any loans, and we would see a situation like Bear Stearns were some other company would but Motorola for a fraction of it current worth.

      The single fact that you don't realise this, pretty much means that everybody would have been guessing right. You should not be CEO. You are great at talking crap.

      I love this part "novel, irrational, but totally brilliant solutions
  • by Thelasko ( 1196535 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:31PM (#22875814) Journal
    If Six Sigma [wikipedia.org] can do this for Motorola, imagine what it can do for your company!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by JamesP ( 688957 )
      I prefer putting the blame on ClearCase...

    • by Svartalf ( 2997 )

      What's tragically true about that statement is going to be missed by many in the business field.

      What good is a process if you produce the perfect product nobody wants?
      What good is a process if there's no customers to buy the things? (Outsourcing takes jobs away that are NOT replaced elsewhere by other employers- eventually that catches up with you...)

      It's yet another fad, in a long line of others...
  • by Iloinen Lohikrme ( 880747 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @08:16PM (#22876248)

    I think there were few major problems with Motorola: 1) going everywhere, but ending nowhere, and 2) lately trying to find a hit product instead of churning out good products.

    Now you might be asking what I mean by saying going everywhere, but ending nowhere. Well simple, Motorola always had more than one technology always in production and in planning. In operating systems front they first went to Symbian, then started their Linux project and in the same embraced Windows Mobile. Now compare this to Nokia that just concentrated to Symbian, no Linux, no Windows Mobile. Only lately Nokia has introduced Linux based Internet Tablets just to gather some experience, but they still are 100% committed to Symbian. In my opinion Motorola should have committed to Symbian as strongly as Nokia and Sony-Ericsson did, maybe allied with Sony-Ericsson in using UIQ.

    The second problem with Motorola relates to first problem. As I said Motorola jumped everywhere in their search of finding a hit, as can be seen in operating systems front. The front where Motorola really failed was in introducing new phones. They had a hit with RAZR, which created an illusion that they were onto something. In reality they just had luck, and what they should have done, would have been to introduce tens of different variations of the phone. Now compare to Nokia witch doesn't really have hit products, but instead it has a large collection of small hits and fairly trading phones. When I just looked at Nokia's European web site I counted that they have 92 phones/devices available. Motorola really should have copied Nokia's formula on doing few platforms and customizing them rapidly and introducing countless of different phones with short life cycles.

    Now, it might seem to some sad that Motorola is spinning their cellphone division out, but then again that might be the best option to take. When the cellphone division are their own company, they will concentrate into a one thing and a one thing only and either succeed of fail. I think a good example of this would be Sony-Ericsson where both Ericsson and Sony spinned their mobile phone divisions, and after the spin out the company has succeeded fairly well.

    • by jbengt ( 874751 )
      I figured Motorla might a little unfocused when they built a big facility in Harvard, Illinois [google.com] based on tax breaks, but not based on enough people living within commuting distance to fill their parking lots.
    • by mgblst ( 80109 )
      I completely disagree with you. Motorola had 30-40 different phones available about 2 years ago, probably more now. Are there really that many different mobile phone users? NO. They should have just streamlined to 6 or even 10 different lines, and concentrated on producing new versions of these. Make it easier for people, not harder (What is the different between the c115, c117, c356, f3, f4, f5, etc?)

      And Motorola looking a different os was just them testing out different options. How has this affected them
      • Well...

        Nokia shipped 436.38 million mobile phones in 2007, taking 38.98% of the market. In the same time Motorola shipped 159 million mobile phones, taking 14.2% of the market. Globally in 2007 over 1119,48 million mobile phones were shipped. I would say that in this background, there are fairly big number of different mobile phone users. I would say that when a company is trying to reach hundreds of millions of mobile phone users, they have to have a large number of different phone variations even to have

        • by mgblst ( 80109 )
          No, this is not proof of anything. Nokia had more sales for a variety of reasons. If only it was as simple as producing lots of different varieties we would see this from all companies. Or do you somehow think that you have stumbled onto the secret of sales?

          Nokia has a much stronger product line than Motorola. In quantity.

          Motorola could do better focusing on a few great phones, rather than lots of mediocre phones (my theory). They would have more people working on a smaller subset of phones.

          You seem to want
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Nokia having more sales than the other handset manufacturers can be attributed to many things including economies of scale in component buying, manufacturing, sales, research and development etc.. However it should be remembered that Nokia hasn't always been the biggest mobile phone manufacturer. When we start to examine on how they achieved their position as the number one and how they have retained it, I would strongly look on how Nokia plays with phone variations.

            I myself think that having large number

  • Motorola software is crappy.
  • I can think of two examples where this didn't really help the larger of the two divisions. And maybe this is just my perspective as a consumer and brand confusion that occurs when companies try to split.

    When Palm split into a software company and a hardware company (palmOne and PalmSource). It was short lived for sure, and I always wondered what the benefit was when they did that. When HP spun off their instrumentation division (Agilent) could be another example. I know Agilent is still doing pretty good bu
    • Lenovo isn't a spinoff of IBM. Lenovo is an independent Chinese company that outright purchased the ThinkPad/mobile division from IBM.
  • Sylvania, Emerson, Motorola, Polaroid, Magnavox, Zenith, whatever (and thats not even including a dozen or so ex-US audio companies who's names are still used). The name will be bought by some SE Asian company and everything will be made in China and in a few years no one but old tube radio collectors will care.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by CronoCloud ( 590650 )
      Ahh, finally someone mentions the REAL Motorola.

      Both my mom and dad once worked for Motorola, no not making cell phone stuff, or embedded CPU's, they made televisions on an assembly line. That's right, televisions. My mother in particular made degausser coils. Then all of a sudden they were told that the factory had been sold, to some company called Matsushita that no one had heard of, but has dome minimal brand awareness as Panasonic. Matsushita then had Motorolas Quasar brand to use for themselves, be
      • A little more history: Motorola's Quasar brand was a very significant attempt to gain market share. Motorola had always been an also-ran brand of TV, and Mot recognized that with American TVs losing market share they were going to have to do much better if they were going to be profitable. Mot introduced the Quasar brand with a lot of publicity and heavy advertising, and they made a good product. It didn't help, any gain in market share was insignificant. The situation was for all practical purposes hopeles
  • I have the answer to all their problems. I must give then a call.

    Say a command.
    Name Dial.
    Repeat the command.
    Name Dial.
    No match found.

    Oh well perhaps some other time.
  • While I know that Motorola needs to get a "sink or swim" attitude for the mobile phone business, if I was a MOT shareholder I would want to first kick out management and then determine what needs to be done.

    The real opportunity for the next generation of devices is tighter integration among functions. I would look at the iPhone and iPod Touch as examples of what happens if they draw the line in the sand as proposed. One is a phone, one isn't... but they both benefit from the same user interface and common
  • Just when Sprint appears to be going headlong into Moto-only insanely overpriced handsets (check out their web page, most handsets are Nextel --> another bad choice, oriented Moto handsets, big heavy, expensive, under featured, "rugged"), Moto is floundering. Sheer brilliance on Sprint's part. Maybe they both go out of business in 2008-9.
  • by timholman ( 71886 ) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @11:52AM (#22882590)
    I was working in Arizona several years back, and attended several corporate presentations by Motorola. Once I flew up to Schaumburg for a day-long event where Motorola was trumpeting their "rebirth" just after the Freescale spinoff. The other attendees and I had some interesting conversations about the future of Motorola. We were all pretty pessimistic about the company's outlook.

    Personally, I think that the Six Sigma movement was what started Motorola down the road to ruin. The entire management structure became fixated on playing the Six Sigma game, and lost sight of actually watching the competition or designing new products. Six Sigma became the perfect management circle-jerk. As the digital revolution in cell phones began, and cell phone networks spread throughout the third world, Motorola management was too busy computing error statistics for Six Sigma presentations to realize that their product line and the planned Iridium satellite system were already obsolete.

    One event in particular sticks in my mind from the Schaumburg visit. During one presentation, a Motorola manager showed an org chart of the "old" Motorola, and then an org chart of the "new" Motorola, and assured everyone that Motorola was going to be back at the forefront of communications technology in short order thanks to the new corporate reorganization. The problem was that if you took the old org chart and rotated it 90 degrees, it looked exactly like the new one. Everyone I was with had a good laugh about that on the way back to the airport.

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson