The grandson of Motorola's founder is the voice of reason on the information superhighway. If ex-Apple Chairman John Sculley and his Newton personal communicator were the epitome of last year's hype, Mr. Galvin crystallizes the new reality in the emerging technology market.
"It will take at least a decade for this industry and its derivatives to evolve," Mr. Galvin said in his keynote address at the Digital World new-media conference in Los Angeles this month.
Mr. Galvin has given similar speeches at two other major tech trade shows this year, a sign of his rising industry profile. Capping off two decades at Motorola, the 44-year-old Mr. Galvin last fall rose to Motorola's No. 2 position and top operations post, from senior exec VP. The move came after Chairman-CEO George Fisher resigned to take the top job at Eastman Kodak Co.
After being burned by false promises about near-term prospects, the new technology market is primed for a reality check. And Mr. Galvin speaks from measured success: The Schaumburg, Ill., company last year earned a record $1 billion, up 77% from 1992, on record sales of $17 billion, up 28%.
Motorola pioneered and remains the leader in the fast-growing cellular phone and pager markets. Now the company is placing multiple bets in emerging wireless technologies, including personal communicators, phones and satellite networks.
Motorola is also a distant second in PC chips, with 8% of the $9 billion world market last year compared with Intel Corp.'s 74%, according to Dataquest, San Jose, Calif.
But the company is betting heavily on PowerPC. The new family of chips was developed with IBM Corp. and Apple Computer, and is designed for everything from PCs to wireless devices to cars.
Motorola has an enviable record in taking technology from limited business use to the mass market-precisely the path new devices like personal communicators will have to travel. The company's pagers had a limited business application in the '60s; three decades later, they're mass marketed in fashion colors. Ten years ago, Motorola's cellular phones were bulky and costly devices marketed to business users. Now, they're beginning to have broader appeal.
To be sure, Motorola has failed before. After pioneering car radios in the 1930s and moving into TV sets in the '50s, Motorola bailed out of consumer electronics in the mid-'70s because of TV quality problems, Mr. Galvin said.
A year ago, Motorola began its first national TV campaign for pagers, from McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Atlanta. The $10 million effort put it solidly back in the consumer market.
Yet Motorola is careful not to get ahead of itself. Apple last year spent millions on national consumer ads for its bug-ridden and ridiculed Newton MessagePad. BBDO Worldwide, Los Angeles, handles Apple.
"John Sculley couldn't have done anything worse for that business," Mr. Galvin said.
In contrast, Motorola sees the upcoming Envoy personal communicator as a long-term play. The product will be introduced later this year.
"It's not just if you build it they will come," said Randall Battat, VP-general manager of Motorola's Wireless Data Group and a former Apple executive.
Expanding on its lead in pagers and cellular phones, Motorola will try to move consumers into new wireless devices-but only when product, price and services create a viable market.
First, Motorola will have to sell its president, who isn't enamored of technology for technology's sake. Mr. Galvin jots down notes on 3-by-5 cards, not on some futuristic electronic device.
"I do that," he said with a sly smile, "to shock people."
Richard K. Skews coordinates Technology News.