Motorola turns ‘radical’ with plans for London design studio

Motorola’s senior vice-president, Geoffrey Frost, has confirmed that the company will open a design centre in London, relocating its eight-strong UK design outfit from its current base in Basingstoke (DW 7 July).

Frost, who is also the US company’s chief marketing officer, says the centre will be based on the Motocity Chicago facility it opened in the US at the end of 2003. Tokyo, in Japan, would make a ‘fabulous third’ location for a Motocity design centre, he says.

‘Many of the kind of people we are attracting are not suburban people, but prefer to be in urban environments. It would be crazy not to do it. London is arguably at the peak of design in the world,’ says Frost. A formal announcement on the timing of the launch is expected shortly.

The company is also preparing for the release of the next version of its Pebl mobile phone, with distribution expected next year. The curvilinear Pebl and angular Razr models – both designed by Motorola in Chicago – are considered as two primary ‘families’ of design from which ‘mutations and cross-breeds’ will be extracted. According to Frost, they form the basis of a ‘radical and disruptive’ design ethos which will now be adopted for all of Motorola’s forthcoming products.

‘We began to define what we wanted to be about three years ago and that is the defining company around [mobile communications devices], which I thought were to be the epicentre of culture. Before that, we were a tired old bureaucratic company that believed our own bullshit and PR,’ says Frost.

Reception of the long-awaited iTunes-enabled Rokr model has been mixed, with some press reports claiming high levels of customer returns. Its 100-song capacity is meagre in comparison with Apple Computer’s iPod, and the launch of Apple’s Nano iPod coincided with, and somewhat eclipsed, that of the Rokr. Despite this, further tie-ups between the two companies are ‘very likely’, according to Frost.

‘One of the problems with the Rokr was that it took us a while to integrate iTunes into the phone and so a myth grew around it as being this incredible marriage of the iPod and mobile. It is clearly not in line with our design strategy now, but it absolutely will be in the release of future versions,’ says Frost.

Motorola still lags behind Finnish manufacturer Nokia in terms of global market share, though Frost claims that the company is ‘making incredible in-roads’ on Nokia. ‘The curse of success is that you can lose that hungry mentality to reinvent the world every 90 days. It’s a trap we are well aware of,’ he says.


Company Q2 2005 Market Share (%)

Nokia 31.9

Motorola 17.9

Samsung 12.8

LG 6.5

Sony Ericsson 6.2

Siemens 4.7

Others 20.0

Source: Gartner Dataquest, August 2005

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