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May 21, 2008

What happened to Symbol!?

Symbol Technologies was always one of my favorite companies. I visited their headquarters in Holtsville, long Island several times over the years and always came away impressed with their sleek designs and willingness to try out new ideas. That feistiness carried over into some aggressive acquisitions (like the bitter fight with Telxon) and, after some financial incongruencies, the sale of Symbol itself. Now Symbol is part of Motorola, but it isn't very clear what kind of part.

A good year or so after the acquisition Symbol seems to have been halfway absorbed into Motorola, but if you go by the Motorola website it's almost impossible to figure out how. Symbol is only listed as carrying bar code scanners, mobility software, and OEM scan engines, but no longer any handheld computers. The former Symbol handhelds have become sort of stateless, popping up under "Mobile Computers" without any brand name at all. So the former Symbol MC50, for example, is now just a "MC50," presumably somehow by Motorola.

It's actually quite sad to see all that. Symbol's once proud state-of-the-art handhelds now languish, carrying on in some way with dated processors and even more dated software. Some have unceremoniously been discontinued whereas others seem destined to just die from neglect. The MC35, MC50, and MC70 had a very promising career ahead of them when they were introduced, but now they are aging rapidly. The emphasis appears to be on the big and fairly conventional MC9000 Series of handhelds. They come in a variety of permutations with various size keypads, and they remain reasonably up-to-date with Windows Mobile 5.0 and Marvell (why does almost everyone still call them Intel when Intel sold the business a long time ago?) PXA270 processors.

There may well be method to this madness, and the decision to focus Symbol entirely on scanners may be a good one. Obvious it's not. And it's truly sad to see Symbol's proud legacy of handheld computers rapidly go to seed. I mean, make them part of.... SOMETHING!

Another sad thing is Motorola's website itself. It must rank right up there with the most confusing, least user-friendly ones I've seen. It's not surprising the company is in such trouble. The impression you get along every step of the way is, "We don't know who or what w are, or what we want to be!"

Frankly, as is, I think Symbol, and its customers, would have been a whole lot better off with Symbol intact and independent. Spin them off so they can get back to business, Motorola.

Posted by conradb212 at May 21, 2008 01:21 AM