Motorola's New Mobile Unit CEO Sanjay Jha: 'Too Little, Too Late?'

Dianne See Morrison
Tuesday, August 5, 2008; 7:00 PM

Now that Motorola ( NYSE: MOT) has chosen a CEO for its struggling handset unit, everyone wants to know can Sanjay Jha save the company, or is he "too little, too late" as the NYT asks. Jha certainly has an impressive resume. The 45 year old, who arrives from Qualcomm ( NSDQ: QCOM) began as a PHD-armed engineer at the chipmaker in 1994, rising through the ranks to COO, a role in which he apparently excelled.

Yet Jha is considered an "unusual choice," with some analysts conceding that while Qualcomm is a great "training ground" and that Jha is a "great operations guy" what Motorola really needs is someone who can bring some creative flair to the mobile devices unit and quick. As Gartner research director Michael King said, "I'm surprised they did not pick someone with more imagination in devices. I'm not sure whether a semiconductor guy does the trick. Can he green-light the next five great devices consumers want?" Still, Jha at least has the expertise to solve one of the handset unit's biggest technical problems?that is correctly pairing software platforms with chipsets.

Jha, meanwhile, said he "did not know yet" what the company needed to kickstart innovation but would take three months to review the handset unit's operations. He would also do "strategic hires" in the areas where he has shortcomings?such as marketing.

One thing for certain, Jha won't be chasing the elusive hit handset at the expense of the rest of the division. He told the Chicago Tribune: "You do have star products once in a while on a product road map. "[But] what I want is an organization which delivers on a continual basis. I feel like I have built organizations like those." For now, Jha says he will continue "building" on the roadmap established by Greg Brown who was heading the unit during Motorola's search for a leader. The plan includes the roll out of 34 new handsets in the second half of this year.

So, what happens if Jha fails? For Motorola, of course, it would be disastrous. For Jha, however, maybe not so bad. As Nielsen IAG analyst Roger Entner noted, if Moto succeeds, Jha "can be the Lee Iacocca of the mobile industry, bringing an iconic brand back to life...if it goes south, he can say: 'Sorry, this thing was so messed up when I got there that there was nothing I could do.' "


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