Mobile

February 29, 2012

Motorola Mobility eyes business with iPhone, BlackBerry ‘switcher program’

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This is a guest post from CNET News’ Roger Cheng from the Mobile World Congress.

BARCELONA, Spain—Motorola Mobility redoubled effort to gain a foothold into large businesses, including providing an incentive for workers to dump their iPhones or BlackBerrys.

Motorola yesterday unveiled its switcher program, which will give up to $200 to individuals or businesses for each work smartphone they trade in for a Motorola phone.

It’s part of a broader push by the mobile device maker to make more inroads into the enterprise business. The company has been attempting to bust the perception Android isn’t ready for the corporate world, and is targeting the bring-your-own-device crowd of people who insist on using their personal phones for work.

At the same time, Motorola doesn’t believe phones at work should solely be designed for work.

“Enterprise is a feature, not a device,” said Christy Wyatt, general manager of mobile devices.

The company is taking the business segment seriously, having formed a specific unit a few months ago to directly tackle the area. Prior to that, Motorola acquired 3LM, which makes software for Android that enables phones to run in big businesses.

Motorola also launched yesterday its Moto Assist IT, which is a service that provides help to workers on things like setting up their email.

Companies are wrestling with the choice between letting employees get whatever phone they want, or supply them with a standard phone. Wyatt said she is constantly meeting with businesses to get them to look at Android, and added she often acts more like a consultant giving advice and answering questions. “There’s a shocking lack of support in this area,” she said.

Wyatt said that in her discussions, she attempts to stay neutral, and said she would continue to work with a business even if it opted to go with another lineup of Android devices. She said that it was important for many Android vendors to be successful in business to further legitimize the platform.

“We’re trying to keep the big picture in mind,” she said.

Motorola, surprisingly, isn’t primarily targeting the 10 percent of the market owned by BlackBerry, but rather the estimated 30 percent of users who bring their personal phone to work. The company believes that’s where the growth is coming from.

Wyatt was fairly supportive of Research in Motion, saying she was skeptical RIM would just fold, and thought there was still a lot of customer loyalty for its products.

“I’m not a big believe that a company that big will disappear overnight,” she said.

That said, she’s perfectly willing to take in old BlackBerrys in exchange for a Motorola phone. She added that while iPhones and BlackBerrys are the phones most often used in offices today, she would also take rival Android phones as well.

Motorola doesn’t sell to businesses or individuals directly, so a customer or business would have to get in touch with their carrier to take advantage of the company’s offer.

The company’s business push comes even as its market share position retreats amid a looming takeover by Google. Wyatt declined to talk about the reports that CEO Sanjay Jha is leaving the company, or to discuss what Motorola would look like within Google.

But many of its services, such as the ones acquired from 3LM, are doled out to other vendors. So even under Google’s control, it may end up influencing the way businesses see Android.

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