If some observers think Motorola is headed down the wrong path, you won't hear that from the dealers who resell the communication giant's two-way radio products. Motorola is “absolutely” as powerful a force in the market as it has always been, said Myron Polulak, vice president and CEO of New England Communications Systems, a dealer based in Middletown, Conn.

Smaller two-way radio manufacturers such as EFJohnson and M/A-Com offer serious competition, said David McDonald, president of Radio One, a Motorola dealer in Orlando, Fla. But, “I think we do a pretty good job of selling Motorola over its competitors,” he said. Occasionally, customers say they wish Motorola offered more products based on open standards, rather than proprietary solutions, but “I wouldn't say it's a big push,” he said.

Dealers point to Motorola's products based on the APCO Project 25 standard as evidence that the company has indeed made a commitment to open standards.

“Motorola is a very integral part of [Project 25], as are the other vendors,” said Pat Cuntz, vice president at EMCO, which sells and services Motorola two-way radio equipment from locations in Baton Rouge and Hammond, La.

In Florida, at least, customers aren't clamoring for P25-compliant products, McDonald said. “A lot of times, it would mean a whole new system for them,” and many users aren't ready to replace their legacy equipment.

“I really have not seen a negative reaction from any of the public-safety users” to Motorola products based on proprietary technology, even though standards-based systems cost less, Cuntz said. “Motorola's reputation is that they're probably more expensive than most other vendors. But I think customers have an appreciation that you're going to get what you pay for.”

For Frontier Radio Communications, a Motorola dealer serving the Denver metropolitan area, lower-priced products from other manufacturers are making it tougher to compete for business. In the past, “it's almost like the RFPs were written for Motorola products. Now we're starting to see some other things can encroach on that,” said Mike Kelley, the company's operations manager. “Motorola is still considerably higher on price than those other products. But we still think Motorola has the technological edge.”

For some, the question of proprietary versus non-proprietary is beside the point.

“Technology is so quickly changing, it seems,” Polulak said. “You're talking voice over IP, you're talking broadband solutions, you're talking so many things, a lot of people don't know what they're talking about after a while.”

Rather than focus on evolving standards they might not fully understand, customers usually come in with a business need and work with his company to develop the appropriate solution, he said.

Many dealers agreed that appropriate solutions in the future will more often include wireless broadband data capabilities, including those Motorola acquired when it purchased MeshNetworks. “We see a lot of possibilities for it,” said Douglas Flair, president of TFMComm, a Motorola reseller in Topeka, Kan.

Because New England Communications can now offer broadband data, “we're getting into doors where we haven't been before,” Polulak said.

But dealers might need new skills to sell the new technology, Kelley said. So far, sales of broadband data products such as Canopy and Wireless Networking Solutions (WiNS) have been slow for Frontier. “The biggest reason is finding the correct personnel to sell the product. You need a non-traditional two-way radio salesperson,” he said.

As Motorola moves into the future, at least one dealer wondered how long the company will stay committed to two-way radio. “If you look at Motorola the way it's looked at on the stock exchange, it's a cellular company. That stock goes up and down based on their volume of cellular handsets,” he said.

Two-way radios and two-way radio service providers “were near and dear to the hearts of Bob Galvin and Chris Galvin,” but Ed Zander might not share those sentiments as he studies what's best for the bottom line. “He's going to look at it and say, we're going to do what we do best. Does the two-way radio side fit into that picture? I don't know. I think it does, but who knows?”