Brian.oco 0 Posting Whiz

I wrote about Motorola last year, when the consumer technology provider was struggling to keep up with tougher Asian market competitors like Samsung and Nokia.

The Associated Press reports that shares of Motorola, which has a market value of about $22 billion, have fallen more than 60 percent since October 2006, amid handset market share losses and criticism for failing to come up with a strong successor to the once-lauded Razr phone.

Lately, Motorola's had a "grandpa" problem - consumers didn't think its cell phones were cool - at least as cool as the i-Phone, the Blackberry, or some of the other leading cell phones out in the marketplace.

So it's taken a year, but Motorola seems to have given up on its cell phone business. Sure, it may not look that way now. After all, the company just announced it was splitting up into two separate entities, with it's loss-leading handset division spinning off on its own. That news, on its own, was good. Motorola stock climbed 5% in trading right after the announcement.

But under the surface, things aren't so calm at good, old Moto. Some analysts expect Motorola shareholder Carl Icahn to ramp up efforts to sell its cell phone business to another provider.

The smart money says that the split-off is Motorola's way of hanging a "for sale" sign on its cell phone division. Shareholders want that to happen and Icahn, the second-largest shareholder at Motorola, is being particularly aggressive about a sell-off.

"I suspect it's a prelude for a joint venture for the mobile devices business," said Avian Securities analyst Tero Kuittinen, in an interview with the Associated Press today. Kuittinen views Chinese and Japanese companies as the top candidates for a venture. He also thinks the move is a long time coming.

"It might be easier to negotiate with a standalone unit," Kuittinen said. "It's positive news because it shows the company is moving toward a serious restructuring."

Motorola is playing its hand close to the vest. In the usual corporate double-speak, company execs are playing up the opportunity to win back share in the mobile marketplace.
"We expect this action to enhance recovery in mobile devices and accelerate efforts to attract a new leader," Chief Executive Greg Brown said on a conference call with analysts.

Fat chance. Motorola's best move is to get off the dime and merge its mobile unit with a more polished, more "cool" cell phone provider.