Motorola backtracks on CEO comments

Motorola is backtracking on comments its CEO made last week about the impact Android apps have on phone performance.

Last week, Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha said that the openness of the Android store leads to phone performance issues because there is no approval process to make sure that apps don’t consume inordinate amounts of power or CPU. In addition, the fact that users can run many applications at once, results in a performance hit, he said.

“Android is really truly multitask so you can run 64 parallel apps at the same time,” Jha said during the conference. “That has an impact on consumer experience and we’re beginning to understand it and understand why 70 percent plus of devices that come back are because they’re downloading third party applications and the impact that that has on the performance of the device.”

A recording of his comments is available online.

However, Motorola now says that Jha didn’t mean to single out third party application developers as the reason for 70% of smartphone returns, according to Becki Leonard, a Motorola spokeswoman.

In a statement, Motorola points to an earlier comment from Jha where he said that 70% of smartphone returns are due to software related issues. “He did not state that 70% of smartphone returns was due to third-party applications, but that examples of potential contributing factors are battery life, sluggish operation and third-party applications,” the company said in a statement.

When asked about Jha’s recorded comment that more than 70% of returns are due to downloading third party apps, Leonard said: “We’re trying to clear up that was not the point he was trying to make,” she said.

The statement went on to say that the company conducts extensive research to examine factors that contribute to returns so that it can enhance the performance of the products.

It also said that Motorola has invested significant resources to provide developers with the tools to create high quality apps. “We work very closely with developers directly to test applications and optimize applications for our devices, but given the volume of apps available on Android Market, it is unrealistic for us to test them all,” it said in the statement.

“We embrace the open community and believe that by continuing our work to support the ecosystem through MOTODEV, we are providing one of the best Android experiences in the market for both consumers and developers,” the company said in the statement.

Application quality has been a sore point for Android. Any developer can upload an application into the Android Market. Google will remove applications that are found to be malicious or to violate its terms. Other platform developers, including Apple, Microsoft and Research In Motion, run an approval process before uploading applications to their stores.

Because developers have a wide range of skills, it’s incumbent on the company that builds the software platform to set the bar for quality, said Al Hilwa, an analyst with IDC. “In that sense, Apple does a better job than Google. It’s well known,” he said.

The result of having a more open platform than the others is that Android appeals to people who want to experiment more and are tolerant of potential problems. “At the same time it gives the platform a certain persona that makes it not the platform you want to buy for grandma,” Hilwa said.

Some developers suspect that Google is working on a process that will improve quality in the market, he said. The company could develop an automated process that lets developers upload their apps and then run the apps through tests that examine battery consumption and data leakage, he said. That could help improve app quality.

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