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US mutinational Motorola is one of the world's great innovators in wireless, automotive and broadband communications. Founded in Chicago in 1928 by brothers Paul and Joe Galvin, the company needed a name for the car radios it was manufacturing, so coined the name Motorola.
Most of Motorola's products have been radio-related, starting with a battery eliminator for radios, through the first walkie-talkie in the world, defence electronics, cellular infrastructure equipment, and mobile phone manufacturing. It has also been strong in semiconductor technology, including integrated circuits used in computers.
Motorola was the main supplier for the microprocessors used in Commodore Amiga, Apple Macintosh and Power Macintosh computers, as well as creating satellite systems, digital cable boxes and modems.
Motorola expanded into international markets in the 1960s and began shifting its focus away from consumer electronics, focusing on high-technology markets in commercial, industrial and government fields in the 1970s. By the end of the 1980s, Motorola had become the premier worldwide supplier of cellular phones.
The company's "firsts" in mobile communications are many and diverse, including:
- The world's first working-prototype digital cellular system and phones using the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) standard demonstrated in Hanover, Germany in 1991.
- The world's smallest, lightest 88g, pocket-sized StarTACTM wearable cellular telephone introduced in 1996.
- The world's first cell phone – iDEN i1000plus handset - to combine a digital phone, two-way radio, alphanumeric pager, Internet microbrowser, e-mail, fax and two-way messaging.
On a manufacturing note, the Six Sigma quality system - often attributed to its most famous proponent, General Electric – was developed at Motorola.
As a company, Motorola has been split, reformed and spun off numerous times in its long history. For example, in the late 1990s, the need for venture capital led to the formation of a satellite network project called Iridium. Though technically sound, the business model could not survive the dot com downturn and Iridium went bankrupt.
After downturns and layoffs, Motorola slowly regained market share in the cell phone business against the likes of Samsung and Nokia, helped by its stylish designs – notably the RAZR V3 ultra-slim, metal-clad, quad-band flip phone introduced in 2004. It also produced the first phone compatible with Apple Computer's iTunes Store - the Motorola ROKR E1 - in late 2005.
In 2006, Motorola was rivalling Apple's iTune compatibility with its own iRadio music service and expanding its product lines the KRZR, SLVR, and the RAZR V3i. It has introduced the MING touch screen smart phone in Asia complete with advanced handwriting software to recognize more than 10,000 handwritten characters of the Chinese alphabet, and the red MOTOSLVR phone in support of (PRODUCT) RED™ in 2006, which aims to raise awareness and money for the Global Fund to fight AIDS in Africa.
Motorola's most recent corporate move was a merger with Symbol Technologies to provide products and systems for enterprise mobility solutions, including rugged mobile computing, advanced data capture and the commercial technology of the moment: Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID).
And after all this history and technical stuff, there is always Austrian designer Peter Aloisson. He took a standard Motorola V220, studded it with 1,200 diamonds and added a keyboard inlaid with 18 carat gold. The outcome is a handset for film stars and WAGs – and a price tag of £28,000.