back to article Only one man can save Motorola

Whose fault is it Motorola is in the mess it is in now? In some ways it is impossible to point a finger, but if you want a name it's Geoffrey Frost. Frost was the marketing man who moved from Nike to Motorola. With him he took the glory and success of being a top brand. At Motorola he built the Hello Moto campaign. He was …


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  1. Tom
    Thumb Up


    This one has to be headline of the year. Good article

  2. Webster Phreaky
    Jobs Horns

    Motorola needs Apple's PR Spin Dept. NOT a Stevie Gods....

    Over the long history of Motorola in the cell handset business, they sold at the top by making rugged reliable phones at fair prices, the StarTac sold in higher numbers than ANY other phone ever and set THE benchmark for tiny size (for it's time) and the clam shell design. I still have one and it still works with the original battery!

    The ONLY thing that Geoffrey brough to Motorola's recent "road to success" and the over 100m Razrs his "Moto" campaign sold .... was gimicky promotions on a so-so phone. In the short time Motorola sold that 100m RAZRs, will Apple be able too? NOT! But, what Apple has is a powerful Bullshit Machine - their PR Dept and all their paid-off Media Hacks that do a great job of making Apple's failures into iphony successes through disinformation and outright lie propagation; and that Apple lies through their teeth about sales figures and then went caught, they have to "restate earnings" - something they've had to do numerous times in the past.

    No, Motorola doesn't need a Stevie Gods, they need an Apple Bullshit machine ..... IF they can't seem to find their way back to making phones people really want (feature set and easy of use) and that really last heavy usage.

    Otherwise, go buy a POS iPhone that's more a gimmick gadget than a phone and enjoy having to PAY a premium to replace the battery and god knows what else (considering Apple's LONG history of flaky products) every 9 months or less.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    What an excellent article.

    I particularly like : "...they all say they'd work for him again. They say it without a moment's hesitation. That is the mark of a great leader".

    The problem is Motorola are a big, arrogant US company and Mr Snook will need some persuasion to leave a different business (

    I still have my StarTac, I think that was innovative as well. What made it stop until Mr. Snook arrived on the scene ?

  4. Jez Caudle

    Casey Keller

    Casey Keller not a safe pair of hands? I'm sure you would find a load of Fulham fans who agree and loads who don't. I think Shay Given is a better goal keeper.

    Why Motorola thought employing a goal keeper was a good idea is anyones guess. No wonder they are going down the pan.

  5. pctechxp


    Had a couple of Moto phones and they are I'm sorry to say crap.

    This was when this great man was in charge so I don't think it had that much of an effect.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Motorola ruined by diddy managers

    I worked for Motorola SPS (Semiconductor Product Sector) for 11 years in its glory days. It was a fabulous company, with leading edge products, but had some poor management at all levels. It had a culture of promoting brown nosers (yes men) into position of responsibility rather than promoting people who were realists and could actually manage!

    Looking back, my thoughts are of a superb company ruined by diddy management. Your story highlights this fabulously. One man dies and the diddy managers below him can't take up the mantel and vision forward!!!

    Motorola would still be a world leader in both mobile phones and semiconductors if they had better management.

  7. Cliff

    You need Hans, to brush away the tears

    Ouch. Brilliant. Logline of the week.

  8. Adrian Crooks


    The fact is though that you got those phones while the man was in charge, thus maybe he was doing something right. The phone concepts were appealing even if their implementation needed work.

  9. Nexox Enigma

    Last nice Moto Phone

    The last phone I liked from them (Which is still functioning 2+ years later) is their L2. They took the SLVR or whatever, then took off the stupid bits (Downloadable music, camera, over spec'd screen, etc) and made a phone that performed very well, whilst maintaing a small form and light weight.

    But these days it seems that phones are either A) Loaded with useless features that I'd never use or B) Budget crap models that are large and plasticy and seem rather less than durable.

    This isn't just Moto, of course, it's more or less common over all of the portable electronics industry. I wish designers would pay attention to function instead of frills... But obviously people buy for frills, so they must be present in order to sell product.

  10. Thomas

    "You need Hans, to brush away the tears"

    Plus "They only did it for the fame. Who?" = someone's been listening to The Great Rock 'n Roll Swindle this week?

  11. Chris Hamilton

    Orange lost it's way without Hans.

    I was a technician for Orange when everyone there was still feeling the Hans Snook buzz (just after he had left), profits were high, we had leaped Vodafone to be #1 and had the largest most comprehensive GSM network infrastructure in the country (partly down to the handicap of the 1800MHz band we used, but still 13,000 TRx's was something to be proud of). Ask anyone there, and they would say it was all down to Hans.

    Then the rot set in, two succesive takeovers later and Orange fell into the hands of one of those government telegraph departments you spoke of. Somebody appointed the worlds least favourite executive as CEO, Sol Trujillo, and France Telecom started draining the company of every Euro it could lay its hands on to bolster its own failing business.

    Staff morale plummeted as redundancies were mentioned for the first time in the company. The company's small, focused head office operation in Bristol started to get diluted across Bristol, London and Paris leading to a lack of communication between key departments. Customer service levels, which had never really been Orange's strongpoint, fell even further, and with it went market share. Then after having been through 3 line managers in as many months as they kept being made redundant, I left to pursue a career with that other government monopoly, the railways.

    I guess most of what happened after he left was just the usual story of a small successful company being swallowed by a government monopoly. But ask any old hands at Orange when the best time was for the company, and they will say "When Hans was in charge".

  12. Anonymous Coward

    @AC: Motorola ruined by diddy managers

    I've yet to encounter a global organisation that isn't shot through with talentless brown-nosers at all levels of management, all looking out for themselves only. (Anyone know different?) And unless your recruitment is staggeringly stratospherically brilliant, it's guaranteed to happen, as brown-nosers like nothing more than having more brown-nosers working for them.

    PS Motorola killed off Psion, by pulling out of their joint smartphone project. So I won't shed that many tears for them.

  13. V.Srikrishnan
    Thumb Up

    rooting for motorola....

    I like their phones. I am a graduate student from India and while I can afford a decent mobile phone(by Indian standards), I go for the basic functionality one. and here is where motorola has scored in my opinion. they have a very basic c-113 model here that has sold very well. it is decently rugged and has nice battery life. i would definitely want this company to do well, considering its history too...

  14. Matt Bradley
    Gates Halo

    Webster Phreaky's secret identity

    I've figured it out: He's Steve Ballmer. Just you wait: pretty soon he'll be foaming just as incoherently about Google.

  15. Brett Brennan

    Maybe it's just Schaumberg, Illinois...

    Maybe Schaumberg is just the black hole of corporate America. What ever happened to Motorola's neighbor, US Robotics? OOPS! Or Sears? (Well, they're out in Hoffman Estates, but it's pretty close...) It seems like any company that sets up HQ in that part of Chicago suburbia ends up as a gray-tone image of its former self.

  16. Nick Drew


    The thing is...the Razr is not (was not) a good phone. The menus were Motorola's usual incomprehensible mishmash; the battery life was dreadful and got worse inside 6 months of use; the user experience was not fantastic. Even to non-techy people (let's face it, El Reg has a biased sample), this was becoming something of an issue, and in the UK the impression I got was of a huge Razr user base who were NOT recommending it to friends and who would NOT buy another Motorola handset after their 12 month contract ended.

    In a way, Motorola became a victim of its own success - the huge sales of the Razr served to highlight its flaws, whilst simultaneously raising consumer expectations for further innovation. Which didn't come, and still hasn't, probably due in part to Whosit having a heart attack.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Trees falling in the forest have no sound

    I applaud the article - one of the best this year, but have to take one exception. Having worked there for 18 years, I believe that Hans would need to bring an ample supply of hearing aids with him to have even a glimmer of hope as Motorola management has a history of not listening to brilliant ideas. In all but a few cases over its history, particularly in recent years, if a brilliant idea or leader came along and appeared counter-intuitive, it was as if a tree fell in the forest and the result was Motorola middle and senior management would toe the party line and all swear it never made a sound when it fell - even if they were there at the time. Cat is on the right track in suggesting an outsider with the vision and track record Hans could bring - but I doubt it even crossed their minds. I can only hope the company can find the strength to make one more brilliant leadership choice before its lack of real leadership and mediocre management kills off what is left of the company.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rose tinted specs

    Yes those were good times, and Hans did have a lot to do with it (and was great at self-publicity). But the other aspect of Orange's success in the early days was empowerment. There was a culture throughout the company of "letting the brakes off" and letting staff at any level take charge of what they were responsible for, with the minimum of authorisation by higher levels. Thus you had one good (great?) leader, a clear vision, and then a few hundred people all pulling in the same (more or less) direction and given more or less carte-blanche to do what they thought best. That kind of freedom breeds success as there is nothing better than delivering things faster and better than the competition.

    Oh and the thing about his own personal "coverage bubble" is true!

  19. Daniel B.

    @Maybe it's just Schaumberg, Illinois...

    Maybe. The last company I remember having its HQ there was going down as well. Ow.

    My last Motorola handset was the StarTac, ok it was an AMPS/NAMPS phone but it performed very well. The last time I did want one was the (something)300 (V300, i think?) which was one of the first with integrated camera, videocamera and all sorts of nifty stuff that are now standard for most handsets. Maybe the fact that the newer models did not perform as good as the older ones also made me re-think my options; by the time I had the money to buy a good handset, my expectations were fulfilled by the SonyEriccson W300.

    I think the Sony Walkman brand may have been the "Motorola killer", because before the W series I was still thinking on getting a Moto.

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