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Why Motorola Is Desperately Seeking Android Apps

Motorola is heavily courting developers who make applications for Google's Android operating system so that it can present new customers with a tantalizing array of applications when it launches its next family of smartphones. This is literally do or die for the company, and Elizabeth Woyke at Forbes reports

Staffers at its MOTODEV developer network have spent the past several weeks reaching out to Android developers through weekly podcasts, meet-and-greets, and tutorials commissioned from experts.
Why the focus on apps, as opposed to, say, better phone features?

Because, as I've written earlier, apps are the tail that wag the smartphone dogs. Apple's iPhone is beating the world thanks to the plethora of available apps and the ease with which they can be purchased using iTunes. But the cool factor is the most important -- and note that commercials for the iPhone aren't about the device per se, they're about the apps. Jean-Marc Orselli, CEO of French mobile app vendor Never Alone Anymore (trust me, it more euphonious in French), told me during a meeting in New York that Apple is especially attractive to app developers because if it sees the inherent value in an application, "it easy to develop a win-win relationship with Apple." Orselli added that Apple's entire focus is on apps rather than the phone itself.

Where does that leave the rest of the pack? Wireless industry analyst Dean Bubley made the following points in a forum posting:

  • BlackBerry sales are driven by corporate email usage... I never have people brandish their BB at me & demand that I look at some cool app. [But market share is] definitely growing among consumers - I can't believe how many I see in the hands of young people (especially female, for some reason) in London.
  • Nokia Symbian devices are tricky. They tend to be (largely) driven by people wanting a high-end Nokia device, ideally subsidized heavily. They get used a lot for photos & some music & some web browsing... but again, I never have "normal people" show me apps on a Nokia, or feel that aware of people using them around me... Do you know anyone (normal user, not "industry") who has binned their iPhone at the end of a contract & switched brands/operators?
  • Windows Mobile: Still not seeing any buzz or excitement - let's see what Win7 brings in the future.
  • Android: Probably the closest to being an iPhone-alternative as they seem to have got the UI & touchscreen closer than peers... I could see them picking up share as well, if Nokia really stumbles.
The upshot as far as I'm concerned is that Motorola can win back market share if consumers continue focusing on apps, but will have to produce a smartphone that's at least on par with Nokia or BlackBerry to have a shot. But its competitors have left it an opening, as neither Nokia's Ovi nor BlackBerry's app store are compelling for now.

[Image source: Edimagno via Flickr]

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