By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
LAWRENCEVILLE, GA.— Motorola has reentered the home phone market, opening up a consumer products division here, and launched the 300 series, a lineup of 2.4GHz analog cordless phones.
The line, already shipping, comprises seven models: the MA300, 350, 351, 352, 360, 361 and 362 at suggested retails of $49.99, $59.99, $59.99, $69.99, $79.99, $79.99 and $89.99 respectively.
All models have speed dial, redial and page-handset features. All models, save the entry-level MA300, feature a backlit name/number caller ID display.
The MA360, 361 and 362 add a digital answering machine with 15 minutes of recording time. The MA352 and 362 also ship with a hands-free headset.
Motorola's initial rollout is limited to several major national retail chains, including Best Buy, Circuit City, Target, Office Depot and Wal-Mart. Distribution will expand as new products are introduced in October and later in the second quarter of 2003, said Cortlandt Minnich, Motorola's cordless telephone manager.
"Once we ensure that we have the logistics straight, we can build on that foundation" with broader distribution, he said.
The company, which was in the home phone market several years ago before it left, re-entered in part due to customer demand and the vacancy left by Sony.
"We made a cordless phone a number of years ago, but it didn't fit into the Motorola strategy at that time," Minnich said. "But based on our consumer research, we found there was an expectation that Motorola should be in home phones."
"In this market, vendors are always fighting for shelf space, but Sony's departure created a vacuum, and retailers came to us," said James Vandenbergh, business director of Motorola's consumer products division. Despite the market's past volatility, Vandenbergh expressed confidence that new technologies and stabilizing price points in 2.4GHz made the move viable.
Playing on Motorola's brand strength will be a key for the company, Minnich noted. "Our research showed that robustness is very important in the cordless market, and we felt our name played to that. Our products are robust and easy to use."
As for future introductions, Minnich indicated that the company has been "urged to go with high tier product" and that the October and 2003 intros should cater to the higher end of the market.
"It's a difficult balance between what's possible and what's practical," Minnich said. "We've heard so many people say: 'I just want to talk on the phone, not page or network.' So you have to balance these priorities."
One certainty is that the company will eschew cordless phones in the 900MHz frequency. Minnich said the company has no plans to introduce 900MHz phones in North America, despite the frequency's endurance in the lower-price point end of the market.
"Pricing has kept 900MHz alive, but we view a general market shift from 900MHz to 2.4GHz positively," Minnich said.
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