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Mini Review: Motorola Gets Foot in Office Door with Droid Pro

Thu, 10/07/2010 - 9:26am
Andrew Berg

Motorola's new Droid Pro for Verizon Wireless is aimed at none other than Research In Motion's BlackBerry, the reigning king of the enterprise. While Motorola's Droid, Droid II and Droid X are probably proficient on the business side of things, no other Android phone has targeted RIM with such precision.

I had occasion to handle the Droid Pro on the show floor yesterday and found it to be a well-executed try at giving the BlackBerry a run for its money. Will it make a dent in RIM's sales? It's probably too early to say. To be sure, it's worth the effort Motorola put into attracting a portion of BlackBerry users with a similar look and feel, while slipping the Android platform underneath as a buzz-worthy alternative to RIM's offerings.

What's probably most interesting about the Droid Pro is that it sticks with the standard BlackBerry form-factor for which RIM has become famous. One gets the feeling that Motorola, which is known for its quirky stylings (e.g. the Backflip), felt that mimicking the BlackBerry form factor would be key to the success of its first real Android-based enterprise offering.

Droid ProWhile I understand Motorola's reasoning, I'm not sure it's the most forward-looking decision. AT&T's BlackBerry Torch is about as wild and crazy as RIM has gotten, but the larger touchscreen and slider qwerty still signal RIM's realization that its traditional form factor just isn't  exciting the market the way it has in the past (especially when stacked up against phones like the HTC Evo, iPhone 4 and Droid X).

Perhaps the Droid Pro can be seen as a foot-in-the-door device for Motorola. The form factor establishes a presence in the enterprise the way a suit and tie help an executive fit in at a business meeting. Once they're in there and comfortable, perhaps Motorola will pull a Steve Jobs and start wearing jeans and a black shirt to the office.

Once you get past the form factor, and I've no doubt Motorola will do just that with its next device for the enterprise, the Android experience shines through as the real differentiator between the Pro and  the standard-issue BlackBerry, even one running BlackBerry OS 6. While the Pro is an enterprise-grade phone, with deeply integrated Microsoft Office software, the UI is decidedly more playful than RIM's. And of course, as an Android phone, the Pro hold the keys to the Android Market, something RIM just can't equal with its BlackBerry App World of just under 10,000 applications.

With Samsung recently announcing enterprise solutions for the Galaxy S line of smarpthones, it's clear that the line between consumer and enterprise is dissolving. What does that mean? It means that sticking with the "same old business phone" just ain't gonna cut it anymore. Why should the business user have to sacrifice screen size and fun just so she can use it for work? 

Android is Motorola's ace in the hole with the Droid Pro, which is an adequate attempt at combining both personal and business lives in one device. Perhaps once it has established itself with business users, Motorola will take the gloves off and offer up an enterprise-grade Droid X-type beast. However, a phone that can stream Netflix on that kind of screen might not be the best thing for productivity.

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