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Motorola embraces Android, sees Microsoft on the side

Lays off staff and platforms

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Sanjay Jha, co-CEO at Motorola, is planning another round of layoffs in the mobile division as the group struggles to reduce the range of supported platforms from the existing 15 to something a little more manageable.

The plan could be announced formally as soon as Thursday, when Motorola will present its results, the Wall Street Journal reports. The cuts will see Android and Windows Mobile emerge as the smartphone platforms of choice, and the internally-developed P2K for embedded devices.

Most mobile manufacturers long ago settled on a small range of platforms. Nokia for example has the Series 30, Series 40 and S60, and the S30 is rapidly disappearing to leave the firm with one smartphone and one embedded platform. Those platforms are then used to produce a range of different handsets, with the same basic features.

Motorola, on the other hand, tends to pass requirements on to OEMs which create a custom OS for every device. This means the company ends up supporting a huge range of platforms - leading to massive inconsistencies in functionality and interface. Cutting the number of supported platforms down can only be a good thing, though P2K is probably too old and sprawling to fit into the low-end space, so there will have to be some compromises there.

Motorola can't quite shake off its polyamorous nature in smartphones either. The company will continue to support both Android and Windows Mobile - putting two different platforms onto the 30 per cent of its sales that are for smartphones. Motorola is currently recruiting developers to port its user interface onto Android, though few would argue that UI is the company's area of expertise.

The WSJ repeats the rumour that Motorola is going to outsource production of Windows Mobile handsets, which makes more sense now than it ever did. The US business market wants Windows Mobile, so dropping the platform completely would be a hard sell, but keeping it alive is expensive.

People within Motorola tell us they're desperate to see the embedded platforms reduced - at least those staff not bugging us for careers advice do - so the news will be welcome in at least some parts of the company. Layoffs will no doubt accompany the announcement - several thousand of them, according to the WSJ - and that will make a clear statement that Sanjay Jha is in control of the mobile division and getting it ready to stand alone.

Sanjay has only got two years now to sell off Motorola Mobile. If he doesn't manage an IPO or similar by Halloween 2010, then he'll have to settle for a €30m pay off. An IPO could easily make him 10 times that. ®

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