Motorola’s history of tablets shows remarkable ignorance
December 20th, 2010
Daniel Eran Dilger
Motorola, the company that brought the first Android smartphone to the masses in Verizon’s Droid extravaganza last winter, is now hoping to challenge Microsoft’s second attempt at making a first impression with Windows 7 Slate PC by showing off its its own Android 3.0 tablet at next month’s CES.
Given that CES has long been a failure showcase, this isn’t exactly shocking in and of itself. What is interesting is that in hyping its upcoming tablet, the company has muddled and erased tablet history to suggest that Motorola will be offering the pinnacle of tablet evolution.
Innovation: Apple at Macworld vs Microsoft at CES: 2000-2007
CES: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: 2008
Palm Pre: The Emperor’s New Phone: 2009
Microsoft Courier: the third weak link in a miserable mobile strategy: 2010
Tablets of the ancient world
In a teaser promotional video created in CGI that appears to from the late 90s, Motorola presents a weak description of series of historical tablets. From the beginning, there’s the 10 Commandments, which Motorola says offered “excellent durability.” Holy Moses!
According to the story, Moses threw them down and smashed them to bits on the way down the mountain (after the skygod created them using a touch interface), leaving Moses to recreate his own copy (via another visit up the mountain). He broke them because he was pissed that everyone was having a party while he was up on the mountain with g-o-d. The tablets no longer exist, outside of Motorola’s fake CGI museum, and they also weren’t written in English (nor the Shrek font).
Jumping into more recent tablet history, Motorola says the GRiDPad was intended for inventory but its 20MB hard disk ‘could only hold 12 items.’ Well it ran DOS, so it didn’t really have that much overhead. But Motorola’s memory going forward appears to be even more limited than the GRiDPad.
Motorola’s tablet lapse
Where’s Apple’s Newton Message Pad in Motorola’s historical recounting? Motorola should recall it, as the company was a licensee of Apple’s Newton OS. Where is that 1995 Motorola Marco PDA tablet which ran Apple’s Newton OS? Oh yeah, it failed, even more spectacularly than Apple’s own Message Pad. Motorola resurrected the Marco name for a 2007 smartphone, but you’ve never heard of it because it was fully eclipsed by the iPhone.
Motorola also, curiously, seems to have forgotten that it acquired Symbol Technologies in 2007, just as the original iPhone was being announced. Perhaps that $3.9 billion deal didn’t register with the company, or perhaps it would rather forget having purchased a huge supplier of Windows Mobile and Palm OS PDA devices right at the cusp of the iOS era and the implosion of yesterday’s tablet operating systems.
Apple had been using Symbol devices at the time of Motorola’s acquisition of the company, but has since switched its EasyPay retail store program to use the iPod touch outfitted with a bar code scanner and card swiper, and other retailers are now doing the same.
Hope for the best
Motorola preferred to ignore all the boorish tablet devices it actually makes and take a pot shot at Apple’s iPad, saying it is “only a big iPhone,” as if that’s a bad thing. Imagine being only “a big Android smartphone,” like the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Or Motorola’s Droid X.
Or being so ashamed of your current lineup that you’re forced to make jabs at the most popular new product of the year and the only really successful tablet product ever, without being able to say anything about your own future vaporware apart from hinting that it will run the next version of Android — an unproven new platform that offers little reason to attract iOS developers and users and which won’t benefit from the Verizon marketing push that helped subsidize the sales performance of Droid smartphones.
Google has a lot to deliver in Android 3.0 Honeycomb, as Motorola isn’t the only company betting its future on software from the vendor of 2009’s Wave, 2010’s Google TV, and next year’s uncertain Chrome OS. Motorola has to rely upon Google because the company has had nothing but failure in creating its own variants of Linux and in licensing everything from Newton to Palm OS to Windows Mobile to Symbian.
But hey, a long history of failure doesn’t prove anything.