WBEZ | Motorola http://www.wbez.org/tags/motorola Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Google puts up Libertyville Motorola campus for sale http://www.wbez.org/news/google-puts-libertyville-motorola-campus-sale-104713 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/flickr_titanas.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Now that the former headquarters of Motorola Mobility in Libertyville is <a href="http://www.binswanger.com/Resource-Center/Media-Center/Press-Releases/Press-Releases/271/month--201301/vobid--10818/">up for sale</a>, who&rsquo;s likely to buy it?</p><p>Before we think about it - consider first that the most recent vacancy rate for similar office space in Libertyville is 28.7 percent - almost twice as high as in the city.</p><p>That&rsquo;s before you take into the account the Motorola Mobility campus in Libertyville. It sits on 84 acres and is more than a million square feet of office space. To give you an idea of the size, the Merchandise Mart - where the workers <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-07-26/business/chi-motorola-mobility-leaving-libertyville-for-downtown-chicago-20120726_1_motorola-mobility-kevin-willer-lightbank">are moving</a> - is four times that size.</p><p>&quot;If in fact this building were to be added to the competitive market it would add approximately 10 percent to the total inventory in that area,&quot; said <a href="http://www.joneslanglasalle-chicago-forecast2013-website-registration.com/#!robert-kramp/c1o7g">Robert Kramp</a>, who directs regional research for the Great Lakes for Jones Lang LaSalle, the commercial real estate services firm.</p><p>Bult in 1992, the property is really designed as a corporate headquarters. It has 3400 parking spaces. But Kramp thinks convincing a company to move or expand to Illinois right will be a tough sell.</p><p>&quot;Given the challenges that currently face the state of Illinois in addition the fact that the economy has barely begun to recover - not withstanding the uncertainty that is still associated with the federal budget impasse - it will be a very challenging market for this particular property,&quot; Kramp said.</p><p><a href="http://www.libertyville.com/index.aspx?nid=54">Libertyville Mayor Terry Weppler</a> says the state has already committed to helping find potential tenants.</p><p>&quot;I would prefer that there were multiple tenants,&quot; Weppler said, adding that it would lessen the chance of another big company coming in and then leaving.</p></p> Fri, 04 Jan 2013 14:57:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/google-puts-libertyville-motorola-campus-sale-104713 Motorola joins corporate suburb-to-city exodus, whither the suburban office HQ? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2012-07/motorola-joins-corporate-suburb-city-exodus-whither-suburban-office-hq-101230 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/blog_lv_campus.jpg" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">The Libertyville campus of Motorola Mobility &mdash; with its manmade lakes, sober exterior and acres of parking&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;represents the golden age of the suburban corporate headquarters.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">And next year&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;less than 20 years after it was built&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;the complex will be empty. Motorola Mobility CEO Dennis Woodside and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Thursday the company will move <em>all</em> 3,000 workers from the Libertyville campus to the upper floors of Merchandise Mart. The 80-acre auburban campus was built in 1994.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The move brings jobs downtown&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;part of a reversal of fortune in which the city is now snatching corporations from suburbia. And as a result, a building type with a future that once seemed rock solid now appears under threat. United Airlines vacated its 66-acre Elk Grove Township headquarters&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;it even has tennis courts&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;for downtown Chicago beginning in 2007. The campus, designed by SOM, won three different American Institute of Architects awards since its completion in 1968.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The United Airlines campus is for sale. And it isn&#39;t alone. On any given week, the internet and the back pages of trade journals are filled with &quot;for sale&quot; ads for suburban office parks and headquarters. It wasn&#39;t always this way. Much like suburban shopping malls, these corporate utopias&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;air conditioned, new, private and safe&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;were once very much the hottest thing around. From the 1960s through the end of the 20th century, corporations&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;Motorola, Sara Lee, and more&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;left Chicago for a new life in the &#39;burbs.<br /><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">But now things are changing. Corporations are downsizing and the new generation of workers does not want to toil in the suburbs. A <a href="http://articles.boston.com/2012-07-19/business/32730386_1_software-engineer-young-workers-tech-workers">story last week</a> in the Boston <em>Globe </em>discusses how young workers in the tech and creative fields prefer working in cities and getting to work by public transit.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;In the 1980s, when you wanted to work and raise a family, you went to the suburbs and that&rsquo;s where most tech workers wanted to be,&quot; the Globe quoted a 55-year-old owner of a mobile phone software company. &quot;But today the demographics are changing, and many people want to work, live, and even raise families in the city.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">As companies accommodate downsizing and the shifting needs of a demographic, big suburban office complexes become vulnerable. Allstate is looking to sell its 64-acre campus in South Barrington&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;it was vacated by the company in a cost-cutting move&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;for $15 million. The company wanted to just raze the property, but village officials intervened.</div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">In addition to office space, the empty property features an 800-seat cafeteria, five private dining rooms and, as the photo below shows, the usual office park lake. The complex is only 30 years old:</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG.jpg" title="" /></div></div>Can these buildings be repurposed? And into what? Corporate and religious retreats? Universities? Motorola Mobility said it will work with Libertyville and Lake County on a new purpose for the campus&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;and it will be worth watching. What to do with these buildings is suburbia&#39;s next big challenge.</div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 27 Jul 2012 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2012-07/motorola-joins-corporate-suburb-city-exodus-whither-suburban-office-hq-101230 Is it the end of the line for Santa Fe Building sign? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2012-04/it-end-line-santa-fe-building-sign-98651 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/santa%20fe%20building_flickr_pippa%20wilson.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="(Flickr/Pippa Wilson)"></div><p>The white-lettered "Santa Fe" sign atop the landmark Santa Fe Building could vanish--refaced with signage touting the building's newest tenant, Motorola, under a permit request being weighed later this week by city officials.</p><p>Under a permit requested by Motorola Solutions Inc., sign designer Icon Identity Solution and property manager Jones Lang Lasalle, the decades-old rooftop sign at 224 S. Michigan would be shrouded in a new lighted Motorola sign.</p><p>The request is expected to heard Thursday by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks' permit review committee, according to the body's <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/zlup/Historic_Preservation/Agendas/CCL_May2012_Draft_Agenda.pdf">draft agenda</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>Motorola Solutions' request follows the company's <a href="http://www.globest.com/news/12_337/chicago/office/Motorola-Solutions-Takes-24000-SF-at-Santa-Fe-320970.html">announcement</a> last Thursday that it would lease 24,000 square feet on the seventh floor of the Santa Fe, an 18-story 110-year-old beauty designed by D.H. Burnham &amp; Co. (Daniel Burnham himself&nbsp; put together his famed Chicago Plan in the building's penthouse.)</p><p>Currently, the building's major tenants include the Chicago Architecture Foundation and architecture firms SOM, VOA Associates and Goettsch Partners.</p><p>The Santa Fe sign is not original to the building, but falls under the purview of landmarks officials because the Santa Fe sits in the city's Historic Michigan Boulevard Landmark District. The city's&nbsp; landmarks staff recommends approval of the permit because the new sign "will not have an adverse affect on the significant historical and architectural&nbsp; features of the landmark district."</p><p>Staffers also said the sign must match the color and illumination of the Santa Fe sign.</p><p>Originally the Railway Exchange Building, the structure once contained offices for numerous railroad companies, including Santa Fe Railroad. Santa Fe later purchased the building and erected the rooftop sign. The building is now owned by the University of Notre Dame.</p></p> Mon, 30 Apr 2012 15:22:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2012-04/it-end-line-santa-fe-building-sign-98651 Tech companies partner with Chicago high schools http://www.wbez.org/story/tech-companies-partner-chicago-high-schools-96821 <p><p>Five Chicago Public High Schools are partnering with technology companies to offer career training in addition to a traditional high school diploma. Students at those schools will also have the chance to take college credit courses through the City Colleges of Chicago.</p><p>IBM, Motorola, Microsoft, Cisco and Verizon will each partner with a high school in creating a curriculum that focuses on math, science, technology and engineering. The companies are also expected to provide internships and job interviews for graduating students.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he reached out to the companies.</p><p>"They have a shortage of workers. We have a student population ready to fill those jobs if they have the educational opportunities to do it," Emanuel said.</p><p>The changes will begin with this fall’s freshman class and Emanuel said he wants to see other schools follow this model in the coming years. IBM has developed a blueprint the city can use in creating future partnerships with businesses in other in-demand fields.</p><p>The high schools that will offer this new program are: Lake View, Corliss, Michele Clark, Chicago Vocational Career Academy and a new school being built at 7651 S. Homan.</p></p> Tue, 28 Feb 2012 23:48:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/tech-companies-partner-chicago-high-schools-96821 Motorola settles class action suit for $200 million http://www.wbez.org/story/motorola-settles-class-action-suit-200-million-96115 <p><p>Suburban-based Motorola is settling a years-long securities fraud lawsuit brought by company shareholders.</p><p>Motorola Solutions has agreed to pay $200 million to settle a class action lawsuit investors brought against the company in August 2007. The lawfirm Robbins Geller Rudman &amp; Dowd, which represents Motorola shareholders in the suit, announced via its webiste Friday that a settlement had been reached with the electronics company earlier in the week.</p><p>According to documents filed with the federal district court in Chicago, shareholders allege Motorola artificially inflated it's stock prices by falsely telling investors to expect revenue increases in the second half of 2006.</p><p>The documents say when those revenues didn't come in, stock prices fell sharply and investors lost money.</p><p>"As a result of the plaintiff's efforts, they have a very, very significant settlement that will turn a meaningful amount of money back to investors," said Samuel Rudman, an attorney representing the shareholders.</p><p>A spokesperson for Motorola would not comment on accusations of any wrongdoing, but said the company is glad to have the suit behind it.</p><p>The settlement still needs to be approved by a federal judge.</p></p> Sat, 04 Feb 2012 00:04:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/motorola-settles-class-action-suit-200-million-96115 Motorola's longtime CEO Robert Galvin dies at 89 http://www.wbez.org/story/motorolas-longtime-ceo-robert-galvin-dies-89-93105 <p><p>NEW YORK — Robert Galvin, who over nearly three decades as Motorola's CEO transformed the maker of police radios and TVs into one of the world's leading electronics companies, has died. He was 89.</p><p>Galvin died Tuesday night in Chicago of natural causes, his family said.</p><p>Galvin oversaw Motorola's pioneering efforts in the cellular industry, including the creation of the first commercial cellphone in 1973 and the construction of the first cellphone network in the early 80s.</p><p>"He probably single-handedly provided this firm with more leadership and guided it through more innovation than any other single person in our 83-year history," said Greg Brown, CEO of Motorola Solutions Inc., the half of the old Motorola that sells communications equipment to government and corporate customers.</p><p>Galvin was named CEO in 1959 at the death his father, Paul Galvin, who had founded the company in 1928. Robert Galvin, known as "Bob," remained in the post until 1986 and stayed on as chairman until 1990. He retired from the board of directors in 2001.</p><p>Galvin led the company into China with a $100 million investment in 1987. The country is still a major market for its phones. He helped create the Six Sigma quality system at Motorola, since adopted by many other companies.</p><p>"Bob saw around corners. He anticipated," Brown said.</p><p>Motorola Inc. split into two companies in January. Motorola Solutions makes police radios, bar code scanners and other products for corporate and government customers. Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. makes cellphones, and has agreed to be acquired by Google Inc.</p><p>In retirement, Galvin founded an investment firm with his sons and established two think tanks focused on energy and transportation issues.</p><p>He wrote two books on the influence of the Scottish Enlightment on the founders of the United States and published a compilation of the business philosophies that shaped Motorola.</p><p>Galvin was born in 1922 in Marshfield, Wisconsin. He attended high school in Evanston, Illinois, and attended the University of Notre Dame. He started working full time at Motorola in 1944, when it was still called Galvin Manufacturing.</p><p>Galvin is survived by his wife, Mary Barnes Galvin, four children — Gail Galvin Ellis, Dawn Galvin Meiners, and Christopher and Michael Galvin — 13 grandchildren and ten great grandchildren.</p></p> Wed, 12 Oct 2011 21:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/motorolas-longtime-ceo-robert-galvin-dies-89-93105 There's no room for nostalgia in the tech business http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-28/theres-no-room-nostalgia-tech-business-91178 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-29/stevejobs.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>I still remember the first cell phone at my house. An early Motorola, it came in a bag about the size of a Kleenex box that held the battery. A few years earlier, I had typed my first computer commands on the keyboard of an Apple IIe. I still have a cassette tape that stored some of those early programs.</p><p>In the last few days, Apple lost its iconic CEO; Motorola's cell phone division lost its independence. Cycles of innovation have long been fueled by loss and renewal. Though, rarely does so much ground shift so suddenly.</p><p>Steve Jobs is generally considered a genius of marketing and industrial design. He reinvented the personal computer, digital music player, tablet PC, cell phone and animated movie; and devised a way to get people to actually pay for downloading music. He will no longer run the company he co-created, Apple.</p><p>Jobs' announcement comes days after Google said it plans to buy the cell phone division of Motorola — the company that invented the handheld mobile phone nearly forty years ago. Google had little choice. The deal gives it a beachhead — and a trove of patents — in its smart phone war with Apple.</p><p>While identity crises may haunt Apple and Motorola in the short term, nobody's writing either company's obituary. The two will never be the same, but chances are they will succeed. Their strong cultures and legacies of game-changing innovation will see to that. Especially as they compete for more of the same customers.</p><p><br> <strong>You will miss Steve Jobs at Apple</strong></p><p>Walt Mossberg <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904787404576529240707351276.html">put it best</a> in the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>:</p><blockquote><em>Most people are lucky if they can change the world in one important way, but Mr. Jobs, in multiple stages of his business career, changed global technology and media in multiple ways on multiple occasions. And that changed the way people live.</em></blockquote><p>Mossberg also reminds us that, of course, Steve Jobs is very much alive and will continue to play a significant role in product development and strategy at Apple. Jobs also filled every level of the company with talented engineers and managers who are at least partly responsible for the hit products we've seen in recent years.</p><p>Still, nobody else is Steve Jobs. And his resignation marks the end of an era.</p><p><br> <strong>Motorola and Google: 'The new eating the old'</strong></p><p>While Steve Jobs and Apple redefined what we consider a mobile phone, credit for inventing the handheld cell phone goes to a former Motorola executive named Martin Cooper. His patent for that revolutionary 1973 device still hangs proudly in the company's Chicago-area office.</p><p>"It might sound a bit exaggerated," James Berkow <a href="http://business.financialpost.com/2011/08/15/motorola-has-storied-history">wrote in the <em>Financial Post</em></a>, "but anyone of telephone-purchasing age in 1984 when the first Motorola DynaTAC portable phone hit store shelves might argue 'revolution' is not strong enough. The introduction of the device, first displayed as a prototype by Motorola scientists more than a decade prior, unleashed a tidal wave of rival products from virtually every electronics manufacturer on Earth; much as Apple Inc. did with the iPhone in 2007, only without any foundational mobile device market on which to gain a foothold."</p><p>For the first time since that invention, Motorola's cell phone division will no longer operate as a stand-alone company.</p><p>Technology companies swallow each other all the time. "It's a natural tendency, the new eating the old," former Motorola chairman and CEO Edward Zander <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-08-15/motorola-ends-28-year-run-spawned-by-gordon-gekko-s-shoe-phone-.html">told Bloomberg's Crayton Harrison</a>. "The story's written every few years in our industry."</p><p>HP devoured Palm. AOL chewed up, and spat out, Time Warner. EBay gobbled up Skype. Cingular consumed AT&amp;T Wireless.</p><p>Still, the Motorola deal feels different.</p><p>"It's like, thanks for everything you did in the 20th century, but you're being bought by a search engine," Roger Entner, a telecommunications industry analyst and founder of Recon Analytics, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/22/technology/after-google-motorola-to-face-identity-crisis.html">told the <em>New York Times</em></a>.</p><p>The two companies could not be more different. Google's initial claim to fame was a search box on a spartan Web page. It deals in data and virtual services. Motorola's a very real-world company that builds gadgets, ships those products around the globe and sells them in bricks-and-mortar stores. Motorola's <a href="http://motorola-videoleadership.hosted.jivesoftware.com/community/motorola_heritage">storied history dates to the 1920's</a>. By the time Google was founded in January 1996, Motorola was already unveiling its StarTAC line.</p><p>"Everybody remembers in their youth some product that Motorola made," Cooper says. He suspects that Google cares little about manufacturing cell phones. When I spoke with him he told me he feels "a little sadness" about the deal that will put the company he helped make famous under the Googleplex.</p><p>It's all just a sign of the times, Amir Efrati and Spencer Ante <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903392904576509953821437960.html">explained in the <em>Wall Street Journal</em></a>. "The deal underscores a long-term shift in the power balance in technology from old-line manufacturing companies to younger, nimbler standard-setters that came of age during the Internet era."</p><p>In other words, there's no room for nostalgia in the tech industry.</p><p><br> <strong>'The big mobile revolution has yet to come'</strong></p><p>Apple's success over the years often appeared directly proportional to the involvement of Steve Jobs as CEO. With his resignation, a number of analysts question the company's ability to maintain its i-mojo. CNET's Brian Cooley <a href="http://www.npr.org/2011/08/25/139948703/how-steve-jobs-ran-apple">told NPR's <em>Talk of the Nation</em></a>: "Steve Jobs is aligned and basically synonymous with Apple's products, Apple's image, Apple's message about how you live in this digital age.... You can't replace what Steve Jobs does."</p><p>Slate's <a href="http://www.slate.com/id/2302388">Farhad Manjoo argues</a> they don't have to.</p><blockquote><em>Apple isn't going to die now that Steve Jobs has resigned as CEO. It's not even going to stumble. I don't mean to dismiss Jobs' contributions. He has been as central to Apple's success as one man has ever been to any firm in the history of business. But Jobs' achievement wasn't just to transform Apple from a failing enterprise into a staggeringly successful one. More important was how he turned it around — by remaking it from top to bottom, installing a series of brilliant managers, unbeatable processes, and a few guiding business principles that are now permanently baked into its corporate culture. Apple today operates in the image of Steve Jobs — and it's going to remain that way long after he's gone.</em></blockquote><p>Wall Street seemed to agree with that assessment. Apple's stock closed down less than one percent on Thursday, the first trading day after Jobs' announcement.</p><p>Martin Cooper hopes a similar culture of success going back generations at Motorola will help his former company reclaim its own Moto mojo under Google. "Here you've got a company that clearly has a superior vision with regard to applications and how those applications are delivered: Google. And a company that's really good at hardware in Motorola." If Google can give them the cache' and the cash they need to do what Motorola does best, along with a healthy dose of independence, he says the phone maker "can survive and prosper."</p><p>Amir Efrati and Spencer Ante also see reason for optimism, and believe the Motorola deal will <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903392904576509953821437960.html">make Google operate much more like — and compete better with — Apple</a>.</p><blockquote><em>For consumers, the deal could usher in new advances by letting Google integrate its Android software more tightly with Motorola devices, taking a page from Apple.... In the same way that Apple has created hit devices by integrating software and hardware into a single experience, the deal for Motorola gives Google a way to create a consistent experience across devices, including phones, tablets and TVs.</em></blockquote><p>Out of crises often rise opportunities.</p><p>Martin Cooper believes,"the big mobile revolution has yet to come." Of course they will stumble. Companies often do after major changes. But Motorola under Google and Apple under Tim Cook are well placed to help create the next big wave of innovation.</p><p>"The essence of that revolution will be collaboration," Cooper says. Instead of social media, "call it industrial media... commercial media. You're going to find people collaborating with tools that look very much like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. There's going to be a huge surge in productivity." All of it driven by wireless.</p><p>The first cell phone I used came with a bag to hold the battery. A few years later, exponentially more powerful phones fit in a shirt pocket. Today's iPhone and Droid dwarf the computing power of that first Apple IIe I used.</p><p>In the span of ten days, two companies that revolutionized their industries and changed the way we live each lost a major piece of their identities. What Apple and Motorola and the millions of people who buy their products hope they have not lost are the histories, cultures and legacies that made them pioneers in the first place.</p><div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio.</div></p> Sun, 28 Aug 2011 06:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-28/theres-no-room-nostalgia-tech-business-91178 TechWeek expands opportunities for Chicago startups http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-27/techweek-expands-opportunities-chicago-startups-89701 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-July/2011-07-27/Technology.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago continues to prove itself as a city to be reckoned with on the technology front. Companies like <a href="http://www.groupon.com" target="_blank">Groupon</a>, <a href="http://www.grubhub.com/" target="_blank">GrubHub</a> and <a href="http://www.motorola.com/" target="_blank">Motorola</a>&nbsp; raised the city's tech-moxie profile but the next generation of tech start-ups was the focus at <a href="http://techweek.com" target="_blank">TechWeek</a>. The new four-day conference wrapped up Monday at the Merchandise Mart but partner events associated with TechWeek run through Friday. For an overview of the event, including some stand-out moments from its maiden voyage, <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> was joined by <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/topic/arts-culture/mass-media/news-media/wailin-wong-PECLB004535.topic" target="_blank">Wailin Wong</a>, business reporter for the <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/" target="_blank">Chicago Tribune</a>.</p><p><em>Music Button: Simian Mobile Disco, "Skin Cracker", from the CD Delicacies, (Redeye)</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 27 Jul 2011 14:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-27/techweek-expands-opportunities-chicago-startups-89701 Voice quality on hold for smart phones http://www.wbez.org/story/blackberry/2011-03-10/voice-quality-hold-smart-phones-83520 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blackberry.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It seems as if there's a new smart phone released every day. Each device promises a full menu of features that's better than its competitors' and the list keeps growing.</p><p>Surf the Web? Check. Listen to music? You bet. Send e-mail and texts? Absolutely.</p><p>And even though American consumers still talk a lot on their smart phones, there's one fundamental function that's consistently falling short — voice quality.</p><p>Across the board — from Motorola's Droid X to the BlackBerry Torch — <em>Consumer Reports </em>gave most smart phones "fair" voice quality ratings in its latest reviews. The same trend is evident in reviews going back a few years. That's in stark contrast to the "excellent" ratings given to display, Web browsing and even battery life features on smart phones.</p><p>"It seems that voice quality has been neglected. It's adequate. Most of the phones we test — the voice quality hovers between good and poor," says Mike Gikas, the senior electronics editor for <em>Consumer Reports</em>. "It's probably the only area where cell phones aren't making any headway in terms of improvements."</p><p></p><p>It's a conclusion supported by other <a href="http://businesscenter.jdpower.com/news/pressrelease.aspx?ID=2011023">studies</a>, too.</p><p>"Shifts in wireless phone usage, including smart phone and texting use, as well as an increase in the percentage of wireless calls being made and received inside buildings, has led to a halt in overall call quality improvement," according to a new wireless call study by J.D. Power and Associates.</p><p>Over the past two years, there has not been a "significant change in overall call quality performance across the industry," following steady improvements between 2003 and 2009, the study says.</p><p>So, who's to blame for the average voice and call quality — handset manufacturers or wireless carriers?</p><p><strong> </strong></p><p><strong>Limited Smart Phone Real Estate</strong></p><p>"Cell phones are by far the most densely packed electronic devices out there," Gikas says. That means there isn't always room for a high-quality speaker and noise cancellation technology, he adds.</p><p>Gikas says manufacturers are focusing on the more profitable side of design by creating phones that are closer to mini computers that run apps and surf the Web.</p><p>"We know that voice quality is not driving sales of smart phones. When was the last time you saw an advertisement for a cell phone bragging about voice quality?" he asks. "It's usually about the network or some capability other than voice quality."</p><p><strong> </strong></p><p><strong>Reach Out And Text Someone</strong></p><p>A few decades ago, voice quality was celebrated with some memorable commercials. Sprint touted a system that was "so incredibly quiet that you could actually <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCfSNdbUCXw">hear a pin drop</a>."</p><p>And AT&T had its popular ad slogan: "<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwGQUivXVZE">Reach out and touch someone</a>."</p><p>These ads are from an era when corded phones were practically the only choice for calling a friend or relative. The only cord many consumers are used to having around these days is one for charging.</p><p>Given the state of voice calling on many smart phones today, a jingle with this tag line might be more appropriate: Reach out and <em>text</em> someone.</p><p><hr /></p><p><strong> </strong></p><p><strong>'Voice Is An App'</strong></p><p>As wireless carriers including AT&T and Verizon Wireless race to unroll their new 4G LTE networks, which promise faster data speeds, there's also the potential for further voice enhancements. These networks will function using Internet Protocol (IP).</p><p>"What is important to realize it that on digital devices and digital networks voice is an app just like Angry Birds or CNN," says Tom Wheeler, the managing director of Core Capital Partners, a technology-focused venture capital firm. "It is a software construct that just happens to do something that is similar to what a telephone used to do."</p><p>The new IP networks that wireless carriers are building will change the landscape from what used to be an analog experience into a fully digital one. "We are currently living through the transition from the voice-centric network and device to the IP-centric network and device," Wheeler says.</p><p><strong>How Voice Factors Into Mobile Design</strong></p><p>David Townsend, the chief designer for Samsung, recognizes that consumers are increasingly turning to video chat or Skype, a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIp) service, to communicate. Still, he says, mobile phones remain a "leading medium" for phone calls.</p><p>"In fact, as more and more people drop their landlines in favor of mobile phone lines, the need for handset manufacturers and carriers to deliver a quality voice experience will be even more important," Townsend says.</p><p>Both Samsung and Motorola — two giant smart phone manufacturers — say voice quality remains an R&D priority worthy of continued investment.</p><p>Jim Wicks, Motorola Mobility's director of consumer experience design, says mobile handsets need to have a quality speaker and components, software to optimize acoustics and adequate air space around the speaker in order to deliver good voice quality. But he says it's not just about the handset — it's also about the carrier.</p><p><strong> </strong></p><p><strong>Networks And 'Un-Sexy' Profits</strong></p><p>"Voice quality is primarily a function of the networks, not the devices," says Charles Golvin, principal analyst for Forrester Research. "That is, on each carrier's network every phone, from the fanciest smart phone to the most basic feature phone, [uses] the same technology for transmitting and receiving voice calls."</p><p>He says the algorithms for encoding and decoding voice for these networks have evolved to improve both voice quality and network efficiency. Ultimately, that helps improve the carrier's profitability.</p><p>Golvin says voice is a "decidedly un-sexy" feature, though it still accounts for the majority of wireless companies' profits.</p><p><strong>Keep On Talking</strong></p><p>Mark Siegel, a spokesman for AT&T, says the company is focused on improving "all aspects of call quality," whether it's clarity of sound, [or] dropped calls, which are especially frustrating to people.</p><p>Still, he says the company's growth is being driven by wireless data revenue, which rose to $4.9 billion — an increase of $1.1 billion — in the fourth quarter of 2010, compared to the same period a year earlier.</p><p>Voice held its own, though, accounting for the lion's share of AT&T's $15.2 billion in revenue.</p><p>Tom Pica, a spokesman for Verizon Wireless, says recent voice quality studies demonstrate that it is "tops in call quality and/or above the industry average across the U.S."</p><p>Verizon's wireless data revenue grew to $5.3 billion in the fourth quarter of 2010, an increase of 26 percent from a year earlier. But voice still represented the majority of the company's $16.1 billion in wireless revenue.</p><p>When it comes to mobile phones, Americans just keep on talking: On average, since 2005, U.S. mobile phone users talked for at least 11 hours each month, according to the Nielsen Co. </p> Thu, 10 Mar 2011 10:33:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/blackberry/2011-03-10/voice-quality-hold-smart-phones-83520 Motorola set to separate http://www.wbez.org/story/news/economy/motorola-set-separate <p><p>Schaumburg-based Motorola is set to split into two separate entities tomorrow.<br /><br />Motorola Mobility Holdings will become its own entity while Motorola will be renamed Motorola Solutions. Motorola Mobility Holdings is in charge of mobile and home devices. Motorola Solutions oversees communication equipment for government and industrial customers.<br /><br />The two companies will begin trading separately on the New York Stock Exchange tomorrow, and that will have an affect on distribution of shares to stockholders.<br /><br />CEOs of both companies believe the separation will benefit both entities, stockholders, customers and employees.<br /><br />Motorola announced plans for the split in November.</p></p> Mon, 03 Jan 2011 21:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/news/economy/motorola-set-separate