Motoblur is (almost) officially dead. But the apps live on

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

Author: Vlad Bobleanta

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  • Crowd_Sorcerer

    If Motorola gets Android 3.0 onto a phone, that will be a much bigger selling point than having the Motoblur interface.

    Really, Android 2.2 made custom UIs obsolete. Android 3.0 will make that even more so.

    However, it will turn consumers off if they see there is an old version of an OS on a phone. The UIs are the main reason for delaying an OS update.

    There will be more and more demand for straight Android, with the real Android interface. Unfortunately for the OEMs, that makes their hardware more generic, but it is the only way to go.

    Custom UIs will end up costing them sales, not increasing sales.

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  • Wcgjoed

    This makes me want to say: “Oh, Thank God”.
    Maybe, just maybe Motorola and Google have figured out that all this independent manufacturer UI business is damaging to Android, and does nothing but add further fragmentation to an otherwise great platform.
    This isn't to say manufacturer-specific UI offerings are a BAD thing… but the way they've been handled on the Android has been maddening, to say the least. Unavailable updates to certain phones because manufacturers / carriers were still scrambling to polish their UI's to meet the latest Android releases from Google… If you liked a particular Motorola phone, but preferred the hTc “Sense” UI – you had to make a one-or-the-other choice… Even if you liked running the stock Android, most times you couldn't turn off a manufacturer-loaded UI – you were stuck with what they gave you, 24-7.

    Add to that, several different versions of Android running around out there (which of course, determined what apps and widgets, etc you could run) – and it's a big fraggin fragmentation Frag-Fest.

    Is it any wonder why a lot of consumers were left confused and rattled before and after their Android purchases?

    Hardware not withstanding – it's understandable that certain older Android models may not have the minimum system specs to run a latest Android update – there has been much discussion about how Google and phone manufacturers / carriers should handle Android. Some of my personal favorites:

    > Make manufacturer UI's optional. Yes, having Motoblur may help Motorola to achieve a certain brand-identity, but there's a lot of us who want stock Android on our handsets. I really believe there should be a way on ALL Android phones to disable whatever manufacturer UI is loaded, and run with pure Android should you wish.

    > Updates for Android should be pushed, no matter what carrier, manufacturer UI you have. None of this “Well, model X from Verizon will get its official update two months from now, because we have to make sure Motoblur will work with it”. B.S…. If my model of phone is able to accept an Android update from Google, I should be able to do it… no matter which carrier or manufacturer I bought it from. If it means Motorola has to work for 2 months to fit their Motoblur to it, whatever… I can still use stock Android, and have the latest Android updates to enjoy without being penalized because I bought a Motorola phone from carrier B, and now have to wait.

    > Sell your UI's as additions across Android phones. It's a piece of software. I can't imagine it'd be TOO difficult to make these UI's available as separate downloads to a range of phones, so long as the phone has minimal specifications and Android updates. Computer companies have been able to do this for years. Would it really be that hard to charge $20 for Motoblur, if someone with a compliant Android phone wanted to load it on their hTc or Sony?
    Maybe it would be harder – not sure how much of stretch it might be… but I imagine if it COULD be done, think of the competition-based charge these UI's would leap to. Now it's a game of not just creating the best UI for your own manufactured phones – but creating the best UI that could be used on ANY phone.
    There's advertising for you – if 70% of the Android market using manufacturer UI downloads are running Motoblur – because it's the best UI add-on out there, and people really like it… don't you think that'll only help spur them to go check out your Motorola Phone hardware products come next purchase?

    > Don't think updates to your UI is a replacement for real hardware improvements. A lackluster phone with lackluster improvements from the previous model, is still an underwhelming device – even if you bill it as having the latest Android / UI update. Granted, that can be a selling point – but if the hardware itself is behind the competition, don't expect people to get excited about it. Manufacturers can still, as they always have, distinguish themselves from the competition by building hardware with real advancements and smart design.