The buzz around the new Motorola Razr is electric. It has been removed far beyond Lenovo’s ability to control it and the result is that we will all be disappointed. To understand why it is necessary to understand how Razr was born. At the time I was the director of Motorola in Chicago, and although many of my colleagues, including those who opposed the project, now have LinkedIn profiles that claim to have participated in its creation. I am pleased to say that I was only an observer.
But I was close to the people, to the super-intelligent people, who made it possible and the way it was done means that there is no hope that the next Razr folding screen will be up to the original.
Today it’s not Motorola’s fault, the Lenovo-owned company is just a victim of circumstances. My job here is to explain why the circumstances are different. Perhaps the most important difference is that there has never been a Razr before, but it is also about how it arrived.
Razr was a skunkworks, produced by a group of engineers in their spare time and stolen from other projects. In fact, Motorola Aura, which would have been the sequel, received the code name of GD2 for “Go Dark 2”, the second skunkworks project itself, but under the light of Razr’s advertising, GD2 could not remain obscure and has suffered the malaise of the development that followed. A nine-month project occupies the best part of three years, so the best 2G phone of all time was launched on a 3G world and failed.
The existence of the new Razr is already out, and this is the first thing which means that this year’s model will not be so good. The original Razr had no contribution from the mobile operators, no customer requirements, no research or focus groups. And above all, there are no sales goals. The development team has just built what they thought was fantastic. Without having to reach the goals, they didn’t have to guarantee the supply of components.
The keyboard came from a manufacturer who could only do limited quantities. It was an enthusiasm. A hobby for some of the most talented engineers in the mobile phone industry who have ever seen to appreciate what they did. Bo, who watched the screens, knew everything there was to know about the production of screens, where the bodies were hidden, which production processes gave what performance and which technologies could fail despite being promoted by their companies.
Joel loved the audio, spent all day worrying about the sound quality of the phones and then went to his home to find out what he should do to improve the sound of his hi-fi equipment. Roger knew and loved the hinges. And above all, Moto had the best radio engineers. The project was directed by Roger Jellicoe, an incredibly talented engineer who was protected by the rest of the business from Tracy and his boss Rob. It was a very special team that built a very special phone without any commercial pressure.
The new Razr is under construction by Lenovo. I don’t know much about the company and I assume that the internal processes and politics are much better than those of Motorola for which I worked, but I am sure that the environment in which the new Razr is built is much more commercial and less lenient. The RF will be on a consolidated platform, the design will depend on the availability of the components and, as a commercial project, there will be no passion or talent for engineering.