This is why tech companies need to stop having an event every time they make something new


This is from the registration form for a Motorola/Verizon event next Wednesday afternoon in NYC - if you can’t see it, it says “*If you’re attending an event at 548 West 22nd Street in the morning, would you like transportation from that location to Gotham Hall?”
See, there’s also a Nokia/Microsoft event in the city that morning. Motorola doesn’t want to use the phrase “a Nokia event” so they browsed their thesaurus to change it to “an event.” There’s also an Amazon event the next day. You might say they’re all trying to show off new products before the big Apple event the following week. It’s tech event overload.

Which makes me wonder, do companies really need to have an event/presser every time they launch a new phone or tablet? They’re basically throwing themselves a party for doing their job and then inviting the press along to confirm (and live blog!) that yes, they are still doing their job and yes, they will continue to make money by creating and selling new products that are “the most innovative and fastest/most powerful _______ yet.” 

Having an event for every new product is the equivalent of giving all the four and five-year olds in Snoopy soccer a trophy just for being there.

Here’s Dave at Mobile World Congress this past February, saying Samsung’s strategy was “throwing spaghetti at the wall.” Which is pretty true. And you know what? I don’t need to come over for dinner every time you make spaghetti. -Matt

Half of all U.S. patents issued in last 35 years

It took 75 years for the United States to issue its first 1 million patents, but its last million were issued over just the past five-and-a-half years.

The United States Patent and Trade Office issued its 8 millionth patent on Tuesday, going to Second Sight Medical Products for a visual prosthesis apparatus.

The acceleration of patent issuance has ramped up in the past two decades, but really started to take hold in the mid-1970s. Half of all U.S. patents have been issued in the past 35 years. It took the patent office 140 years to issue its first 4 million patents.

What’s behind the patent craze? It depends on who you ask.

“We are pleased to celebrate the issuance of patent number 8 million, reflecting the accelerating pace of innovation and the increased importance of patent protection to our innovation-based economy,” said David Kappos, director of the U.S. Patent Office in an e-mail.

It’s a nice sentiment, but some experts disagree with the notion that innovation is the primary driver behind the growing number of patents.

"The assumption that the number of patents granted in a given period is an indicator of actual innovation is just as fundamentally flawed as if you equated printing of money with economic growth," said Florian Mueller, an independent intellectual property analyst and consultant. 

Mueller argued that the growing number of patents is a sign that the standards of quality for issuing intellectual property protections need to be strengthened. For instance, he said that the patent office uses the same standards for modern software as it did for manufacturing inventions a century ago.

Another expert agreed.

"The economy has shifted, and it’s not as manufacturing-based anymore," said Lewis Lee, partner at intellectual property law firm Lee & Hayes in Spokane, Wash. 

Lee also noted that businesses place a different kind of value on patents today than they did many years ago. Patents, in effect, are treated like real assets that have an ability to drive a company’s success in a market. There are companies, for instance, called non-practicing entities or NPEs that file or acquire patents for the sole purpose of litigation. 

"Businesses are also starting to realize that patents are the greatest renewable resource on earth," he said. "Once you have one, you can start to grow your position in the market." -David

Did anyone test this before they sold it?


Photo: Motorola; Commentary: me

My biggest pet peeve with gadgets is when they do irritating things that are so obviously annoying that anyone who tested out the phone should have realized it immediately.

Except, of course, they don’t notice, and now I’m stuck with this stupid thing that doesn’t do what I want it to do.

My most recent example: The Motorola Droid 2.

After my Motorola Droid had an unfortunate encounter with my daughter’s bathtub, I got a new phone. I decided to be different, so I went with the Motorola Droid 2 (I know, I know, I’m a radical.)

The first-generation Droid wasn’t as snazzy or as feature-rich as some of the newer smartphones, but what it did do, it did right. Then, Motorola decided to get cute and screwed it all up.

To be sure, the new phone adds a lot of nice features: a better calendar widget, better contacts widgets, much better keyboard, seven home screens, access to networked multimedia devices, a faster processor and more memory.

But it also made a lot of things much worse: bloatware apps that can’t be shut off, an alarm application that’s close to unusable, a UI with such a bizarre gray contrast that menu items are practically illegible, a terrible social application that for some reason replaced the browser button and sits at the bottom of every screen, on-board voice commands that are much worse than Google’s voice app, and three different kinds of charging notifications that are inconsistent).

Seriously, when I charge my Droid with a USB cord, it reads “100%” when it’s fully charged, but when it’s plugged into the wall, 100% is not fully charged — that’s “charging complete,” which comes after 100%. I guess it gets 110% charged from the wall. When it’s in the dock, 100% is 100%, but it doesn’t tell me what time my alarm is set for, which is incredibly annoying.

Speaking of the alarm, you think I’m awake enough at 6 a.m. to be able to see where to slide my finger and successfully make the necessary gesture to stop my increasingly loud alarm from chirping? Google’s stock “Dismiss” button just wasn’t good enough for Motorola, apparently.

But by far the worst part is the battery life. I used to get a full day’s worth from my Droid battery, but my Droid 2 battery fizzles out at about 5 p.m. Why? The social application, which can’t be turned off, uses up between 10% and 15% of my battery. Not only is it terrible, it’s the only way to integrate your Facebook contacts with your phone contacts — Motorola shut off the ability for Facebook’s own app to sync contacts. Awesome!

The point is, gadget makers should stop trying to be cute. They’re only doing more harm than good. -David

Motorola Mobility downgraded after iPad 2 announcement


Photo image: Motorola Mobility, Apple, Word Art

Suddenly, those Xoom tablets aren’t looking so shimmery anymore. 

A day after Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad 2, Cowen & Co. analyst Matt Hoffman downgraded Motorola Mobility to “Neutral” from “Outperform.” 

"MMI’s window of opportunity to establish XOOM looks to be narrowing more rapidly than expected as Apple’s iPad 2 launches in the U.S. next week at (mostly) sub-XOOM price points and sporting a stronger than anticipated feature set."

Stupid Steve Jobs messing with all of the Xoom’s fun! -David

Motorola Atrix: Futuristic, but not for everyone

If you’re in the market for a super-fast Android phone, you won’t be disappointed by the Motorola Atrix. It is definitely the fastest smartphone I’ve ever gotten my grubby little fingers on.

Of course, what makes the Atrix unique is the laptop accessory that it docks into, and that’s just not ready for prime time yet. It does the Web … and that’s really about it. The trackpad wasn’t all that easy to use (no scrolling!), which made me long for multi-touch. The interface was sluggish and reminiscent of an ultra low-end netbook, and we all know how thrilling those are to use.

Sure, you can copy and paste between the Web and your phone, but how often are you really going to use that feature? Business users may dig the unit’s portability and security, but, come on, no webcam?

I think the coolest thing about the Atrix is the glimpse into the future. If you couldn’t envision a day in the not-too-distant future where smartphones truly replace PCs, now you can. Just plug it in to a terminal, fire away on the keyboard and mouse, unplug, bring it home, and fire it back up. Easy, simple and always with you.

Motorola made a valiant, impressive effort with the “webtop” Atrix accessory. I just wouldn’t shell out $499 for it. But when the technology improves in a few years… -David

These are the Droids you’re looking for


Image: Motorola

Motorola has rediscovered its mojo. It is safe to declare that the company’s best days did not lie with the Razr and that there is a fairly bright future ahead. The company reported its first quarter of annual sales growth in nearly four years Thursday. And a big part of that is due to the popular Droid phones it sells through Verizon (which includes the super cool limited edition R2-D2 model pictured above.)

The stock moved slightly higher following the earnings report. But as I wrote in today’s Buzz on CNNMoney, analysts think Motorola could continue to climb. Simply put, its turnaround is nothing short of miraculous and the company deserves credit for both getting on board Google’s Android train and designing phones that even an Apple/iPhone sycophant would have to admit are pretty nifty.

Yes, Motorola is likely to have to some tough competition in Verizon stores once a CDMA-version of iPhone is FINALLY available (probably sometime early next year.) But unlike other smartphones that have failed to capture the imagination of consumers and hearts of tech reviewers (I’m talking about you Palm Pre and RIM Torch!)  Droid customers seem to be almost as rabidly in love with their phones as iPhone owners are. Reviews have also been fairly glowing. That’s no small feat.

Motorola has been written off many times before. But it looks like it’s back and here to stay. If Apple is the Death Star of the smartphone world, Motorola just may be the plucky rebel alliance that shouldn’t be underestimated. - Paul

Motorola sues Apple over nonexistent “iTouch”

In more bad PR news, Motorola made an amusing error in its press release today.

Motorola is adding to the lawsuit flurry over patents related to smartphone technology, as CNNMoney reported earlier today. The smartphone maker is alleging that a whole bunch of Apple products infringe on 18 Motorola patents.

But, as Silicon Alley Insider notes, Motorola’s press release alleges the “iTouch” as one of the products in question. As SAI says dryly, the iTouch is “not an actual Apple product; presumably, Motorola means the iPod Touch.”

To be fair, Motorola’s PR team is working overtime these days. Last week, CNNMoney reported that Microsoft filed its own infringement lawsuit against Motorola over nine patents in its Android-based devices. Does this all mean no more iTouches?!1? :( -Julianne