Motorola's Unique Opportunity

I yesterday attended a briefing and product announcement hosted by Motorola to introduce their RFS6000 WLAN switch and the AP-7131 802.11n AP. Motorola staff noted that they've shipped more than 125,000 WLAN switches; they rank as number two or three in overall WLAN sales depending upon whose numbers you believe. VoFi is a key element if this announcement, as is mesh. The 7131 is a dual-radio .11n AP that has an option slot for a third radio, like a wireless WAN, to be used for backhaul or meshing. The packing allows for internal or external antennas, and. indoor or outdoor mounting. The indoor "snap-on façade" was designed by Giugiaro Design, yes, the same folks who design some of the Ferrari products (the cars, not others that bear the same name), as well as lots of other automotive and non-automotive items.

The demo of the new products included using Motorola's Canopy outdoor product line to interconnect three different stations, and was quite clever in that the demo staff just started unplugging the wired equipment that otherwise implemented backhaul links. Such was a novel way to point out that the all-wireless office, campus, and beyond are now possible. In short, though, nothing earth-shattering, but some good, competent stuff regardless.

And all of this reinforced in my mind that Motorola occupies a unique position in wireless today. In can be argued that Motorola practically invented modern wireless. The company can trace its roots from the first car radios to, as it might be put today, quite literally everything in wireless from sensors to satellites. They invented the hand-held cellular phone, and today are leaders in those, RFID, wireless LANs, cellular infrastructure, WiMAX, other metro-area point-to-point and point-to-multipoint systems (the Canopy line), and two-way radios. They're broadly active across consumer, enterprise, government, and service-provider markets. They invented (via the Symbol Technologies acquisition) the WLAN switch. They were the first to integrate RFID into a WLAN switch. In short, they are perhaps the only company on this planet that can do everything wireless, implying all kinds of synergies that should put and keep them on top of wireless like Cisco is on top of networking.

Instead, they're under attack by value investor Carl Icahn, who's already succeeded in getting former CEO Ed Zander ousted and continues to talk about breaking up the company. From a purely financial perspective, one can't argue with such a strategy, but it's my hope that someone at the company will make the case that the synergies inherent (but not yet realized) in what Motorola is today are worth much more than the parts alone. It shouldn't just be about quarter-to-quarter performance, but rather long-term success. And if ever there were a company positioned for long-term success in wireless, it's Motorola.

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