Oh, custom UIs. You were so useful on top of Windows Mobile, back when Windows Mobile was the focus of many of the biggest smartphone makers. You even managed to add some functionality and overall prettiness to Android 1.x.
But it does seem like your best days are behind you now.
Microsoft won’t let manufacturers customize the Windows Phone 7 UI to anywhere near the extent they were used to during Windows Mobile days. And Android development is moving at such a rapid pace that the smartphone makers just can’t keep up with the porting of their overlays from one OS version to the next.
Motorola, like HTC, Samsung and SonyEricsson, used to make a lot of fuss about its custom Android UI called Motoblur. It did so when the Cliq/Dext was launched and it seemed that things were simple in the Android space. HTC would always have the Sense UI, Motorola the Blur, Samsung their TouchWiz UI and SonyEricsson their…well, whatever they call it now. UX. Or something.
And that was the status quo until the Motorola Droid X launch announcement. When something interesting happened. Although Motoblur was there on Verizon’s latest and greatest smartphone, there was absolutely no mention of it at all during the press event.
Turns out that, as we explained at the time, that wasn’t an accident.
For during last week’s earnings conference call, Motorola’s CEO Sanjay Jha had this to say when asked about the future of Blur:
“With MOTOBLUR, we have found that being able to convey the value proposition around MOTOBLUR is not an easy thing to do in a 30-second ad spot. We have decided that we will focus on the value proposition of products and not MOTOBLUR as a brand name in its own right. MOTOBLUR continues to be important and I think you will see increased functionality in MOTOBLUR. This notion of push-Internet is going to be very important to us, but as a brand name, which we make matter in front of consumers as a brand name, I don’t think that’s going to be our focus going forward, but we see the experiences that we deliver is being relevant and differentiating us.”
Looks like Motorola are getting ready for Android 3.0 and its rumored interface overhaul that will supposedly make custom UI layers completely unnecessary. This wouldn’t be unprecedented, given how closely Motorola has worked with Google in the past, specifically on Android 2.0 that only ever got to power the Motorola Droid and Milestone. Perhaps history will repeat itself here and Motorola already know that there’s no point in making a big fuss about Blur anymore.
Motoblur may evolve into a set of custom applications, as opposed to its past low-level integration with Android OS, which would, in theory, make it less resource-intensive to develop and less likely that there would be big OS update delays because of the need to port everything to each new version of the OS.
Or perhaps Motorola have just found that having yet another brand on a phone, alongside the four already there (the carrier’s, the manufacturer’s, the specific model’s and Google’s), was just plain confusing to consumers. I mean, just imagine the “Verizon Droid X by Motorola with Google and Motoblur”. Quite a mouthful.
Whatever other Android smartphone manufacturers choose to do with their custom skins in the future, I just hope they will, at some point, be able to have new OS versions for their devices ready within a month of Google’s official release. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
Via Android and Me
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