Bad news for Motorola: According to Pacific Crest analyst James Faucette, Motorola's Xoom tablet and Atrix 4G smartphone are failing to meet sales expectations.
The Xoom's slow sales, I can understand. The Verizon Wireless version is a pricey $799, while the (still somewhat pricey) $599 Wi-Fi model only launched last week. Reviewers noted that the software and the hardware felt incomplete. A slow launch should be a shock to no one.
But the Atrix? It's one of the most powerful smartphones on the market. Reviewers love it. And with a $200 price tag, there's no reason AT&T shouldn't be selling them by the truckload.
Wireless carriers' breathless marketing of 4G has already reduced the term to a meaningless pulp. Verizon's LTE, Sprint's WiMax, and the HSPA+ networks of AT&T and T-Mobile all qualify as 4G, so despite their differences in performance, the message to consumers is always the same: our network is super-fast. The term "4G" is played out even before the networks finish their expansion throughout the country.
Meanwhile, Motorola's not getting good support from AT&T. The Atrix commercials I've seen focus on the optional laptop dock, rather than the phone itself. While this was initially a huge selling point for the phone, AT&T deflated early enthusiasm with a $500 price tag for the dock and a mandatory tethering plan to use the dock on the carrier's network.
AT&T needs to give up on these strategies and start promoting the actual phone, in the way that Verizon successfully hyped the Droid. Faucette says AT&T's seeing stronger sales from the HTC Inspire 4G, which costs $100 on contract, and the $49 iPhone 3GS. That may be good enough for AT&T -- it's racking up smartphone subscribers just the same -- but neither is the flagship phone AT&T needs, now that it no longer exclusively has the iPhone.
I'm not concerned with the sales performances of AT&T or Motorola, but I do want AT&T to see high-end Android handsets as a worthwhile investment, because that translates to fiercer competition and better products for consumers. The Atrix was supposed to be the lead device in AT&T's portfolio. It pains me to hear that it might be a flop.