Who was the big winner of today’s much-hyped Droid launch?
Sure, the warm reception that the new Android-based smartphone is receiving is a big win for all of the parties involved: Verizon Wireless, Motorola and Android-maker Google. (Personally, I was impressed by the phone, and thought it represented a nice package of features, design and functionality.)
And the stock market seemed to agree. Today, Verizon’s stock was up nearly 3% and Motorola’s stock was up 1%, while the Nasdaq tanked nearly 3%. Google fell about 1.5%. And Apple took a hit, falling 2.5%.
[Verizon Wireless Chief Marketing Officer John Stratton and Motorola co-chief executive Sanjay Jha hold up the new Droid cell phone.]
But I’d venture to say that Motorola was the big winner, if only because the company was in such desperate need of a win. After all, the cell phone biz is a hits-based business. A best-selling product can reverse a company’s fortunes quickly, as Motorola has seen first with its popular StarTAC, and then with the Razr line of devices.
Since Motorola has bet the farm on Android, technologists and investors would have lost a whole lot more confidence in the company’s ability to manage a turnaround if it blew this launch. There was so much at stake with Droid that they had to nail it, or come close to nailing it.
At today’s unveiling at the W Hotel in New York City, Verizon Wireless Chief Marketing Officer John Stratton went out of his way to pump up the fallen icon. “This is a new Motorola,” said Stratton. “We took a chance, some would say a big risk at this early stage in their turnaround. But I am delighted at the level and quality of work. We will continue to work with Motorola.”
Motorola co-chief executive Sanjay Jha, who seemed nervous at first, grew more comfortable as the event wore on and the media got their hands on the devices. Next year, Jha said Motorola would release at least 20 Android-based handsets. The strategy, he said, is to offer more smartphones for the lower end of the market, as well as selling more devices around the world. “Android is evolving faster than any other platform,” said Jha.
For now, though, Jha was all about the Droid, claiming it was the world’s best current smartphone.
Stratton agreed wit Jha’s assessment, arguing that the Droid could “compete head to head” with the Apple iPhone. But he acknowledged that consumers would be the ultimate judge. “The market will tell us how well we did,” said Stratton.