Cell phone maker Motorola just announced the winner of its first-ever MOTOFWRD competition, challenging college students to come up with cool new cell phone products and applications. I found the entries interesting -- and pretty revealing in terms of Motorola's vision and strategy.

The first prize went to a bio-med engineering student, John Finan, who came up with the idea of making mood phones, whose sides light up in different colors to display the mood of the person you are talking to (Oh-oh. It just flashed red. Mom must be getting real mad at me). One runner-up came up with the idea of a cell phone functioning as a GPS, credit card, music player -- and looking like eyeglasses or a wristwatch.

These ideas -- two out of some 500 entries -- fall pretty close to Motorola's existing products roadmap. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the company had announced cell phone eyeglasses, for example.

Clearly, Motorola plans to stay on the cutting edge -- and maybe even a bit over the top. It's all part of its brand-rebuilding effort: A few years ago, Motorola was late to market with camera phones, and lost its innovator image as a result. The company wants to make sure that doesn't happen again, so it's trying out every neat idea out there -- as it should.

Personally, I like the idea of mood cell phones; I really think it might work. Teens would dig the light show. And Finan thinks this technology could even be helpful to people with autism, who have trouble understanding emotions.

Sure, you could say this idea is a bit out there. But then, so were ringtones -- and we all know how popular they've become.

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