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3G/HSPA

Moto Has Two Heads

Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) has finally found a new boss for its mobile devices unit in Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) COO Sanjay Jha, who will lead the business and act as Motorola's co-CEO with Greg Brown.

Motorola announced today that Jha will start "effective immediately" (i.e., right frickin' now!) in the position, leaving his post at Qualcomm. (See MotiTV Reaches 4M.)

Jha joins Motorola as the company prepares to spin off its handset unit into a separate, publicly traded company, a move now expected in the third quarter of 2009.

“We now have the right leader in place to continue the move towards our plan to operate two outstanding independent companies," said current Moto head Brown on a conference call this afternoon. He praised Jha for his "deep understanding of the wireless industry, unparalleled technical knowledge, and strong relationship with carriers."

For the last seven months, Brown has headed up both its handset and networking units as the company has to get its device business back on track; Brown will now serve as head of just the networking and enterprise mobility unit.

Analyst Matt Thornton at Avian Research LLC likes the move, if only because it clears up the handset business situation.

"To this point, establishing new leadership in the handset business should help to improve morale and slow the exodus of talent in the Mobile Devices business. Further, Dr. Jha’s considerable experience at Qualcomm is likely to prove valuable as the company attempts to turnaround the struggling handset unit," he writes in a note issued this morning.

Motorola has been searching for a new handset head after Greg Brown took over that responsibility from Stu Reed in February 2008. (See iPhone Inspires Handset Headhunt and Motorola Loses Ex-Handset Head.) Reed himself moved up to lead the handset unit in July 2007 after a long search to replace Ron Garriques, who had left in February of that year.

Jha, a 14-year Qualcomm veteran, says that his key aim for Motorola's device unit will be "having the whole supply chain being as efficient as it possibly can be." This will mean everything from improving distribution to developing and introducing new phone form factors.

Jha says he may hire in fresh blood to help in areas that don't match his expertise, although further hires from the Qualcomm pool could be an issue, as he said on the call: "There is some concern about me being able to hire people from Qualcomm; I can’t discuss any confidential agreements that may be in place."

Motorola still hasn't said when it expects the struggling handset unit to get its mojo back. (See Handsets Hinder as Moto Posts Small Profit .)

Meanwhile, Len Lauer, executive vice president of Qualcomm and group president, is taking over as chief operating officer at the CDMA company. Steve Mollenkopf, executive vice president of Qualcomm CDMA Technologies (QCT), is taking over Jha's role as president of QCT unit. (See Qualcomm COO Leaves.)

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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