Yesterday Motorola CEO Greg Brown told board members and shareholders that, among a lot of other bad news, the company is no closer to finding someone to lead the company's rotting cellphone business (which Moto is in the middle of spinning off as its "Mobile Devices" unit). One shareholder remarked, "You're not doing your job that you're paid for. Either put up or get out." That investor, like the rest of us, has witnessed the slow-mo train wreck that's been that handset business in the days since the RAZR peaked; the things brought to light in the insider letter I published on Engadget just reinforces the fact that it's time for a change at the top. Some even suggested that I take over Motorola's handset business. I thought it over -- okay, I'll bite if Greg does.
The problem with so many American technology companies today -- especially in the mobile space -- is that while they have no dearth of business acumen at the top of the pyramid, they're typically dry on vision and foresight. They spend brief periods of time innovating, and then milk a technology, brand, patent, or some combination therein for as long as they can get away with it (or in Moto's case, way longer). They play it safe and go for the easy money. Motorola's handset business has come to define this in the gadget world.
I'll be honest, I'm in no way a professional businessman. I wouldn't know how to interpret a multi-billion dollar OIBDA sheet, and as the crew at the Engadget network of sites might tell you, I'm probably a better editor than manager. I'm woefully ill-equipped to run a business end-to-end of the scale of Motorola's handset division. Thankfully there are plenty of suits there to blather on about SarbOx and earnings and compliance, because while I won't be the person to bring it, what's clear is that Motorola needs someone at the top who knows what makes a good phone good, and a garbage phone garbage. Somebody that isn't afraid to say no, and who isn't interested in flogging a slow-dying brand to pad an earnings report. The company needs someone that's not entrenched, an outsider with little interest in pandering to internal big company politics and the post-Zander status quo. Maybe someone that's not afraid to leak some upcoming handsets to Engadget.
Am I serious? Would I really leave my position as editor of Engadget to try my hand at plugging the holes in Moto's sinking ship? Sure -- not that it matters, because let's be honest, there isn't a chance in hell that's going to be happening any time soon. But the right technologist -- I didn't say exec, I said technologist -- sure as hell needs to step up, because if Brown plans on installing another out of touch, overpaid, clueless executive in the revolving door, they might as well sell the company off now while they can still fetch a reasonable price. And hey, if that's the case then maybe I'll lobby our Time Warner overlords to pick it up and let me try my hand. I doubt I could be much worse than the last guy.