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Android Person of the Year Nominee: Sanjay Jha

December 24, 2010 | by Andrew Kameka

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Sanjay Jha
CEO, Motorola Mobility
Nominated because: Leads a popular and controversial phone manufacturer.

Motorola Mobility recently split off from Motorola to form an independent company to sell handsets. The break-up was made in order to give Motorola’s mobile and network divisions more flexibility and autonomy, but there may not be a mobile division to spin-off were it not for the leadership of CEO Sanjay Jha.

Androinica.com readers may recall the amazing turnaround Motorola experienced under the leadership of Jha. The company’s mobile performance had stalled and was in serious trouble when he arrived in 2008, but a little over a year later, it introduced the hottest phone on the market – the Droid.

Jha made sure that 2010 was another banner year for Motorola. The Droid continued to be a top seller throughout the year, as were follow-ups like the Droid X and Milestone. There was also a steady stream of MOTOBLUR devices like the Cliq XT and Devour, that seemed to pop-up on every carrier. Motorola once seemed like a company struggling to deliver a new product it could sell; there are now legions of people who can attest that is no longer an issue.

What is at issue is the legion of fans who felt betrayed by Motorola this year. Several Moto phones released in 2010 debuted with software that was already out-of-date, and those that were running the latest software couldn’t make that claim for long. Users waited months to be updated to Eclair or Froyo, and plenty more were abandoned completely when Motorola confirmed that it had no plans to upgrade. Worsening the blow, Motorola employed anti-rooting measures that aimed to block the only way to guarantee that a user would have custom ROM’s running the latest versions of Android. How did a company that started off 2010 with an industry-leading phone morph into a company synonymous with the past?

Jha deserves credit for ditching Motorola’s reliance on feature phones for Android and spearheading a strong early 2010. He made a large impression on Android this year, though the later half of his company’s performance this year was not nearly as impressive. Despite those shortcomings, it must be noted that Motorola sold millions of phones and became a prominent figure in workplace conversations, on-screen cameos, and mainstream news. We could very well see a repeat performance in 2011 as the newly-independent Motorola Mobility unleashes a new generation of smartphones and tablets.

One can only hope that Jha rededicates the new company to be as forward-thinking as it was early in the year rather than as complacent as it was in later months.

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This article is part of a series of profiles on the people who most-impacted Android in 2010. Read more about the Android Person of the Year series here.