The Razr cell phone from Motorola Inc. was an enormous hit earlier this decade, but the public moved on and there has been no follow-up hit. The company's net income fell 94 percent in the third quarter.
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More than a dozen years ago, I toured its Libertyville, Ill., production plant to view its newest technological miracle.
The MicroTAC Ultra Lite handset was first to fall under the 6-ounce weight barrier. I viewed assemblies of keypads, microphones and speakers, and especially recall the 3-foot drop test of the handset. Ker-plunk, the handsets landed, neither shattered nor dented.
I recall proud Motorola workers happy to talk about the future. The MicroTAC won the Japanese Nikkei Award for creative excellence and Germany's Baden-Wurttemberg Design Prize.
But I also was briefed that day on Motorola's Iridium global satellite communications system of small low-flying satellites. That costly concept was a bust, an indication Motorola wouldn't always hold a winning hand.
Over the years, I've been told countless tales of promise and heartache from Motorola employees and shareholders. All would be delighted if the firm prospered.
The sudden resignation of Chief Executive Edward Zander after nearly four years on the job is another in a long line of executive changes.
Billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who lost a proxy fight to join the Motorola board, applauded Zander's departure and repeated his contention that Motorola should be split into four companies.
New Motorola CEO Greg Brown has experience buying and selling divisions. It remains to be seen whether he will make dramatic moves to satisfy Wall Street.
Motorola remains one of the largest suppliers of mobile phones worldwide, which account for more than 60 percent of its sales. It is also a major supplier of mobile and cable infrastructure equipment, set-top boxes and cable modems.
There may be another hit handset in the wings to help preserve the company in its current form, or the firm may be chopped up. But the hope so prevalent throughout Motorola history provides a stern lesson that technology is never forever, and you must closely track any investments that you may have in it.
Andrew Leckey is a Tribune Media Services columnist.