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Motorola's MOTOMAGX (LJ) strategy

London is an amazing city, where certain miracles are known to happen from time to time. Back in May, when the RAZR2 debuted, we were sitting hand to hand with Motorolas developers, drinking decent British ale, which made for a slow-paced and thoughtful chatter on the companys plan. The last things that concerned us were sales outlook for solutions our eyes were drawn to what was going on in R&D centers of different vendors. Then a representative of an opposing maker dropped in and joined the heated debates straight off. Should WiMax be in business communicators and who needs this? Perhaps only this environment can give birth to new ideas and concepts. That event brought a couple of articles to Mobile-Review, but the main write-up, the one on Motorola's strategy for 2007, if we may say so, its user aspect, as we talked about the makers offerings. I strongly recommend that you read it here, in case you happened to miss it.

Undoubtedly, that article is not an obligatory read, but highly advisable, so as to get into the thick of what is going on. Most of the things we shed some light on six months ago have already happened to this day. In this article we will be taking a glimpse at the company's strategy for one segment Linux-powered solutions. Motorola already has at least two such device classes, and one more is to emerge in 2008. So basically, what we are going to do here is look into the OS versions and indexes, as well as their development.

Vocab eZx, LJ, Android, MOTOMAGX

All these words, in one way or another, stand for Linux in the capacity of an operating system for mobile devices. Nevertheless, nobody outside the company has a good understanding what is what and how each abbreviation appeared. A couple of years ago I revealed the existence of the LJ (Linxu+Java) to our wide audience, however the fact that this is how Motorola calls the platform within its walls has never been realized by many, including journalists working on this market.

Before that moment there had been another abbreviation JUIX (Java + Linux), however that project never brought any fruits after several years in the works. Eventually the company buried it, and as a result it never made it to consumer products. Nevertheless, due to that confusion around platform titles, we mistakenly relegated some solutions to JUIX-powered models, even though in reality there were no commercial products based on that platform.

So, historically, Motorolas first Linux-based products came from the A-series, which was also the first case of implementing Linux into mobile phones. The niche these handsets aimed it was as clear-cut as it gets: higher than feature phones, a tad below smartphones (for instance, the rapidly developing Symbian solutions). December 2003 saw the debut of Motorola A760, and thats was the time when we got to know the companys intentions for Linux. That phone was running MontaVista Linux, whereas Trolltech's Qt/Embedded acted as the development tools. The philosophy of the A760 was right on the surface allow for no third-party Linux applications, as they can provoke malfunctions on the device and thus leave the users critical of interface. Since the Motorola A760 was effectively available only in China and some Asian regions (unofficially), the solution didnt set off any waves throughout the market. While it was a tidy touch screen enabled device housed in a quirky form-factor and packing in a ton of features, the company failed to take it out to the mass market.

The A760 was followed by the Motorola A780 that made its appearance in 2005. Around the same time they announced the concept of devices protected from outside intrusions. The company was careful not to grant full access to the operating system that had initially been available thanks to Trolltechs products. Instead of that, the maker came up with an additional software level the eZx, which all user applications in fact existed on. The necessity to complicate the concept of Linux-powered devices by introducing an add-on software layer had nothing to do with engineering (although they faced some technical difficulties as well, but those were solvable). The fact of the matter was that as per the license Linux is distributed under, users could have asked for the systems source code, which would have allowed third-party developers to write own applications for these devices one way or another. There were forces in the company lobbying against this idea, so the compromise came along in the form of JVM for extending the core functionality. Long story short, thats how the concept of Linux+Java was formed, becoming the driving power to bring about a whole platform.

However fleshing out a concept didnt automatically mean that the LJ platform was born devices that were being developed were all running the eZx. They were all designed for China, and nobody planned to spread them outside this region. The first attempts to break out of this market came along with the ROKR E2 (eZx, but with no touch-sensitive display) and the Motorola MING A1200. While the former music-minded phone never became a popular device and was supplied to select markets in limited quantities, the Motorola MING is a hot product in some regions these days. However its Chinese origins make for a vast grey market, as it retails for much less money in China.

The makers efforts to re-aim these models at the European market were a cry of despair, as they were trying to beef up the portfolio by all means at hand. Motorolas sparing attempts to bring niche Windows Mobile solutions from the US market to Europe are pretty much of the same nature, and the truth is that they are not even remotely successful.

The real birthday of the LJ platform within the wall of Motorolas office is the day when the development of the Motorola Z6 kicked off- this device was originally aimed at the Chinese, US and European markets at the same time. While the products running the eZx utilized MontaVista 2.4.20, the first LJ edition employed version 2.6.10. But apart from the differences in software, the new platform packed in new hardware as well, and thats important all LJ-based handsets enjoy single-CPU solutions, and starting from the Motorola Z6, it has always been FreeScales ARM11 CPU running at 400-600 Mhz (as a rule it is 500 Mhz in most devices).

Curiously, Motorola bound the LJs versions to kernel versions of MontaVista, this way, when the Motorola Z6 was rolled out in Q1 2007, MontaVista was at 2.6.10, so the company labeled its platform L6.1. Mind the fact that there are always two digits. As you have probably noticed, the platform is called LJ, although its versions have only a lone L in them, and this is not a typo.

Since there is a multitude of versions for various Linux builds, we couldnt expect the versions to retain consecutive indexes Q3 2007 saw the L6.3, by the New Year it was the L7.1 and early in 2008 there will be the L7.2.

I used to stumble upon opinions that the 6 in the LJs version referred to the Motorola Z6, hence the platforms index. It is not the whole truth well, honestly, it couldnt be further from the truth. This digit has nothing to do with Motorolas product line-up, it originates from the Linux kernel version used, and thats it.

Now that we have done away with LJs versions and abbreviations, lets move on to the MOTOMAGX. This title in effect reflects the companys marketing activities. At some point in time, one of the companys big bosses, when talking about the LJ platform, noted that it wasnt the right thing to use a word that sounds so much like LG. They held a name contest among the staff, and thats how they came up with MOTOMAGX (reads Moto Magic). Take a look at the block diagram, on what the MOTOMAGX is, below.

Lets try to draw parallels with the world of Symbian. There is an operating system (Symbian) with various versions, for example, version 9.1; however, the OS version alone means nothing, for it only provides the construction yard, whereas its every makers task to build something on it and implement available features in a proper fashion. Nokias S60 platform (originally known as the Series 60) includes so-called editions, for example there are S60-powered devices running the third edition of the platform. Every edition is defined by the OS version and suite of default applications (user interface etc) and on top of that they set standards for developers.

The term MOTOMAGX matches Symbian meaning-wise, for it simply describes a bevy of devices powered by Linux and running on the LJ platform. While the S60 employs such thing as Feature Pack, the MOTOMAGX has none yet, since its development hasnt gone too far as of today. So basically, the introduction of MOTOMAGX is an attempt to promote Motorolas own brand rather than Linux alone. To most consumers Linux seems to be a monolithic system that doesnt differ across platforms, be it an Internet-tablet like the Nokia N800 or a PC.

Interestingly, along with the release of the MOTOMAGX title, Motorola altered its vision of software development for its Linux-powered handsets. They announced that developers would get free versions of the SDK before the end of 2007 and would be able to create native Linux applications from that point on. There were many high-flown speeches about how much of a progress it was, how this release would stir up software developments and so forth. But effectively the company walked the same path as Symbian and Windows Mobile, the one it had dumped back in 2003 in view of certain ideological reasons. Today they need to make up for everything they have missed over this time, and make haste.

It is clear that the development tools for Java are a separate release that is available already today. At the same time, the Linux SDK will be attuned to the companys needs (Trolltech's Qtopia Core development framework).

The thing that we havent covered yet is Open Handset Alliances Android, a coalition topped by Google. This OS is also based on Linux (although its a different version), and will be developed by 35 companies, including chipset, phone and software makers. While it might clash with MOTOMAGX-powered solutions, the overlapping areas will have more to do with the philosophy of products, since Android is a totally different branch of development.

Now that we are through what is what, lets see how LJ-powered devices are positioned and what shares they occupy in the companys portfolio.

Market outlook for LJ

Motorola is focusing on three platforms Ajar (Motorolas own platform), P2K (same), and Linux. Niche-oriented solutions may run on such operating systems as Symbian or Windows Mobile these products are designed for particular markets/purposes, the company doesnt strive to take them to the mass market. The P2K platform is very dated as of today, so the maker is withdrawing it from the market, but this will take some time; and in 2008 there will still be some solutions employing the P2K as well. At the same time Motorola will be increasing its portfolio of the Ajar in the segment of relatively cheap terminals, although first fiddle is now played by Linux-based products, whose share will be the biggest among other platforms.

LJ platform versions

We are not going to look at the LJs core functionality and standard suite of applications, rather, we would like to investigate the landmarks of this platforms development, see what new features will bring and what aspects will be of most interest.

Note. The features described below are not obligatory for commercial products; the dates listed below have nothing to do with mobile phone release dates and rather indicate when support for features in question was added. One and the same phone can run on different platform versions, as it is up to the maker whether to introduce an update or not long story short, the platforms functionality is not equal to the abilities of a handset powered by it. All products belonging to the same generation are pretty much identical functionality-wise; the maker prefers step-by-step approach, which is especially apparent from the way the LJs interfaces evolve.

L6.1 1Q07/Motorola Z6

This is the basic version of the platform. Key technologies include only:

  • Support for Janus DRM
  • USB 2.0 High Speed
  • Media Finder
  • Landscape camera mode
  • BT/USB Print
  • Haptics (call, keypad)
  • SIM Wizard allows transferring contacts from a SIM-card to the handsets memory.

L6.3 3Q07/Motorola Z6 (update FW)

Improved connectivity, plus enhanced UI.

  • WiFi, UMA
  • Support for a new type of SIM-cards MegaSIM
  • Screen3 technology, version 2
  • Auto-coupling feature for Bluetooth-headsets
  • Mail wizard
  • Improved phonebook and data submission
  • OMA DRM 2.0
  • Push email
  • Open Source Browser
  • IMS
  • VoIP

L7.1 4Q07/Motorola RAZR2 V8, Motorola U9

The morphing technology debuts, some models employ semi-morphing.

  • Rich Voice Call enhanced video calls feature for 3G networks
  • Ability to setup certain applications phonebook, Media Finder. Ability to store data remotely (like contacts saved in the Web) bundled function, called up from the menu
  • Motowhere 1.0 service Motorolas maps, plus ability to search for locations, POI, etc - http://motorola.jentro.com/. This service isnt Motowhere, but gives a good general idea of the makers concept.
  • Caching of multimedia content uploaded from the Web
  • SVG Tiny
  • Plays for sure support for audio

L7.1.1 4Q07/Motorola ****

  • Ability to add media content onto external displays (video, multimedia)
  • Blog Central Beta
  • Plays for sure support for video, Windows Media Streaming
  • Improvements in the browser
  • Support for 3Mpix+ cameras

L7.2 1Q-2Q08/Motorola ****

The most important version of the platform, as from this point on, it becomes open to developers. The foremost change is support for the JSR-271 (MIDP 3.0) specification. Below is a change log with improvements over the second version. What we would like to note is that Motorola picked the same road as Nokia, Sony Ericsson, who strive to avoid fragmentation of Java-specifications in every way possible:

  • Enable and specify proper behavior for MIDlets on each of CLDC, CDC, and OSGi, for example:
    • Enable multiple concurrent MIDlets in one VM
    • Specify proper firewalling, runtime behaviors, and lifecycle management issues for MIDlets
    • Enable background MIDlets (e.g. UI-less)
    • Enable "auto-launched" MIDlets (e.g. started at platform boot time)
    • Enable inter-MIDlet communications
  • Enable shared libraries for MIDlets
  • Tighten specs in all areas to improve cross-device interoperability
  • Increase functionality in all areas
    • Improve UI expressability and extensibility
    • Better support devices with larger displays
    • Enable MIDlets to draw to secondary display(s)
    • Enable richer and higher performance games
    • Secure RMS stores
    • Removable/remote RMS stores
    • IPv6
    • Support for multiple network interfaces per device
  • Specify standard ways for doing MIDlet provisioning through other means (e.g. OMA (SyncML) DM/DS, Bluetooth, removable media, MMS, JSR-232, etc.)
  • Extensive device capabilities query
  • Localization and Internationalization (if appropriate, integrating/augmenting JSR-238 as needed)

The abilities of MIDP 3.0 are quite impressive, Firstly, it enables multiple concurrent applications in one VM, then allows MIDlets to draw to secondary display (which is the feat that no phone has got today), improved security. Secondly, it allows launching applications on the platforms startup - the feature currently available with Symbian, yet missing in Java. So, in my unqualified opinion, as far as functionality is considered, the abyss between Symbian and Java applications is getting smaller at a fast pace.

Other key aspects include synchronization of music over WiFi, support for DLNA/UPnP. The platforms multimedia abilities will be extended as well, thanks to digital television (DVB-H). Media Finder will get a revamped video tab for searching this type of content (with the ability to go out to the Web, however which services will be engaged is still unknown).

As for the features that I personally liked is the ability to view video and photo on the external display without having to flip the device open (for clamshells and models that are to come after the RAZR2).

This version will see a thorough revamp of the user interface, for example the pool of messaging feature will be expanded with Message Threading. Wi-Fi wizard and the ability to control applications from the external display are also to be embedded. Speaking of quirky features, there will be Push To Video (PTV) and contacts status available from the phonebook (somewhat similar to todays instant messaging).

Enterprise users needs will be addressed with remote device control features (device lock and ability to wipe all data).

L7.4 3Q08/Motorola ****

We wont go through this version in detail, although it will be at the tip of the LJs development in the near term. This version will bring touch-screen enabled devices with no keypads, very similar to the iPhone, yet packing in standard functionality that we have come to expect from this makers products. Among interesting features of the L7.4 are support for MS Office documents (viewing), local mail synch with PCs MS Outlook, mobile television (DVB-H), MotoWhere 2.0, automatic multimedia synchronization with PC over Wi-Fi, in some modes over Bluetooth. The browser will obtain a password manager; plus the platform will introduce a full-fledged support for VoIP and the ability to switch between WWAN and WLAN.

I remember having a glimpse of the Motorola Morphing Tablets presentation, running on some speakers notebook at MotoDev, however its release is not even on the horizon 2009 at best. Thats why we are not going to give a lowdown on it here, since its specs and looks are subject to change.

Conclusions

The LJ platform, also known as the MOTOMAGX is getting to be one of the markets most interesting offerings. For the time being, the company is much more concerned about taking the platform further, rather than implementing it into its solutions. Thats the right thing to do, since Motorolas product range is blatantly weak, and on the one hand, Motorola strives not to show everything it has up its sleeve prematurely, but it is also trying to introduce innovations into a couple of devices (whole line-ups) at a time. Starting from May 2008 the company will come to its senses and start rolling out various solutions.

P.S. I would like to thank Bryan M., without whom I would have never been able to get to MotoDev. Thank you.

Related links:

Motorola strategy and vision, product line for 2007

Software features of the MOTOMAGX (LJ)

 

Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
Translated by Oleg Kononosov (oleg.kononosov@mobile-review.com)

Published — 25 December 2007

Have something to add?! Write us... eldar@mobile-review.com

 

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