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Motorola Sees Opportunities in the 'Space Between'

ATLANTA -- The next big opportunity for the mobile computing industry involves the work of bridging gaps between a growing universe of networked devices, the CEO of chip and cellular giant Motorola said Tuesday.

Without those connections, the concept of seamless mobility won't be fully realized, Ed Zander told a keynote audience at the CTIA Wireless 2004 show here Tuesday.

"One of the challenges that we have as manufacturers and suppliers of technology is how we make these networks seamless, how we take the concept of mesh and ad hoc [networks] and make them converge" with cellular-based networks, Zander said.

Zander's comments came on the heels of Motorola's release of a phone built to target the compatible-networks issue. Dubbed by Motorola as "one world" phone, the A840 model works on both the CDMA cellular protocol and GSM standard for what Motorola called "worry-free global roaming."

The company said the A840 lets users be almost anywhere in the world and be able to segue seamlessly from CDMA to GSM without interruption. The handset is among the first handsets on the market that can offer what Motorola calls seamless mobility.

But the work of filling the gaps between incompatible networks is just getting started, and needs to be a focus in order to fulfill a vision of computing devices that can do more than talk to people, but can talk to other devices. "The opportunities are enormous, with security, medicine, telemetry," Zander said.

The former president of Sun Microsystems , who has been on the job as Motorola's CEO for about 2 and a half months, was brought in as part of the company's turnaround plans. The 56-year-old is leading Motorola at a time when the company has slipped to third in handset revenues behind Nokia and Samsung Electronics.

Among the company's initiatives, he said, is an added emphasis of how to target the spaces between mobile devices.

"It's OK to talk about how many cell phones are in the home, or in the enterprise, but really the big challenge is how we move seamlessly between these spaces with the same devices and experience those unique technologies."

With that in mind, Zander said Motorola is placing its tech bets in four areas, starting with what he called alternative networks that bridge the worlds of wireless networking with cellular technology.

The second area, he said, is devices embedded with smart processors, such as the use of smart dust in wireless sensors. The third is the "everything everywhere" concept of content moving through a number of devices without running into compatibility. The fourth pillar, he continued, is to design software stacks that enable these concepts.

Zander gave some examples of the concepts in action, in addition to the A840 world phone handset announcement. They included a new alliance with mobile e-mail application player Good Technology, in which the company's GoodLink wireless messaging and corporate data access system is to be deployed on Motorola's new MPx mobile handset.

The deal means that Motorola's newest converged handheld device, based on its MOTOPro Innovation Platform, Windows Mobile software for Pocket PCs, and the GoodLink system, are offering enterprise customers a secure system that enables wider access to Outlook connectivity and to other business applications.

Motorola also said it has chosen chipmaker NVIDIA's GoForce 4000 processor for its new 3G mobile phones. The processor is built for delivering imaging and video processing for 3G phones. It also serves as a development environment for building new applications for multi-media phones.

The chips are helping support phones that can play extended MP3 music files, as well as MPEG4 videos.

"Think of it as a micro-tv-video-ipod," Zander said Tuesday. Devices such as those help signal where convergence is going, he added. But for now, the work of stitching compatibility among networks is underway, at the same time the world is seeing exponential increases of "everything that has a digital heartbeat being connected to the digital network."