CES Day One: My Computer Dies; Zander Makes a Colorful Entrance
- By John K. Waters
After a hearty breakfast of minibar M&Ms and Diet
Coke, I bolted from my hotel on Monday, ready to sink my teeth into the leathery
hide of the CES
monster. But first, a quick stop at a local shop for laptop repairs, because
the hotel wireless network corrupted my com stack!
I hate it when something happens to my machines that I can't figure out for
myself. (Hateithateithateit!) Fortunately—and I mean that literally,
because it was nothing but dumb luck—I found a local repair service that held my
hand and fixed my gear. Smartech is a little Mom-and-Pop-and-Two-Other-Guys
operation on Tompkins Road, near the Orleans Hotel.
It's run by three local boys who went off to college and came
back to set up shop in the old home town. Frank Lorie is the computer service
guy and Microsoft specialist (and fellow Battlestar Galactica fan).
Joe Domingues is the cheerful TV service guy, and Joe's wife, the lovely Brooke,
runs the office. There's also Matt, but I didn't meet him. They offer lots of
services at Smartech: data recovery and backup; network design and e-mail setup;
data security and firewall configuration; and more. They reassure panicking
reporters for free.
But I digress...
Back at the conference, Motorola's CEO
Ed Zander added some color to the show by riding onstage for his morning keynote
on a bright yellow bicycle. But the clearly able-bodied chief exec wasn't just
showing off his cycling prowess, or how silly a man of a certain age dressed in
business clothes can look on a bike. He was making the point rather vividly that
cell phones, which are widely used in countries where the tech is often
otherwise pretty low, are fast becoming the dominant computing platform and
content delivery vehicle worldwide. Zander expects about a billion mobile
devices to be sold worldwide over the next two years as countries such as India
and China, which are leapfrogging wired infrastructures and going straight to
'Over the next 10 years, you can expect an explosion of mobile
technology,' Zander told his audience, adding that there are 500 million
cyclists in China.
Zander's bike featured a new Motorola product: a bike-mounted handset
charger, which Zander said his company hopes to provide to so-called
Throughout his presentation, Zander referred to Motorola's efforts to provide
''cool experiences'' anywhere, anytime. ''In this new world,' he said.
''The Internet will follow you; you won’t follow the Internet.''
Zander introduced a new mobile phone during his speech. Dubbed the
Motorizer, it will use Microsoft's Windows Media software to transfer music
purchased from a roster of more than 200 Web-based stores worldwide to the
handset. Motorola says the phone should be available in the first half of this
year. He also touted some new capabilities of the Motorola Q, the one-time
trendsetting darling of the smart phone market, now a bit faded as competitors
snag the concept and refine the form factor. He demoed a cool Bluetooth
stereo headset, designed to play music streamed from a phone. The headset is
meant to work up to 30 feet away from the phone, and it comes with controls to
allow the user to pause songs to take or make calls. He talked about Motorola's
recent acquisition of Good Technology, which is allowing the company to tie
mobile enterprise users to their companies' back-end systems, e-mail, and video
content. And he announced two important partnerships: The first with Yahoo, to
put the new Yahoo Go for Mobile 2.0 mobile software on Motorola handsets; the
second with Warner Music Group, to sell Motorizer phones pre-loaded with music.
Users will also be able to buy ringtones, digital wallpaper, and videos
Zander did a good job of acknowledging in a light-hearted way the elephant in
the room: Motorola's disappointing holiday sales numbers, which hit the
company's stock price. He rode the bike in from Chicago, he told conference
attendees, because Motorola is on ''expense controls.'' (Motorola is
headquartered in Schaumburg, Illinois.)
Zander's best bit: He pulls out this ancient, just-barely-mobile phone about
the size of a shoebox and holds it up to his ear. ''The analysts who are here
today will like this because there are a lot of gross margin dollars in this
puppy,'' he quips, adding that the phones once sold for $4,000 each. ''If I could
get some of you to buy some, it would sure help.''
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached