Wireless Device Strategies

First to market each quarter with the most accurate and detailed data on handset strategies. The industry’s most timely, consistent and accurate tracking of device vendor KPI metrics, as well as handset market sales and shipment forecasts.

February 17, 2010 03:02 bjoy
With the launch of Google Nexus, the term superphone started to make its rounds through the blogosphere. There is no single definition for the superphone, but in its simplest terms it stands for devices that are built to render Web 2.0 services to its full potential along with an array of sensors and hardware bells and whistles. So what’s next? Well, if you ask me, I would drop the “phone” from smartphones and superphones and coin a new category called the “Super-Smart”. In an increasingly connected world, platforms are not going to be confined within the realm of phones, regardless of whether or not they are smart or super. And this goes well beyond the Web 2.0 services or Application Store fronts, where Android and Apple have taken the lead. The next evolution in device platforms will leverage content, hardware and services from a full range of connected terminals and services, whether it is hardware, software or web based frameworks.  Two of the main announcements from MWC 2010 have embraced this approach: Windows Phone 7 Series wp-7-v1.bmp The new platform is a huge leap from the previous Windows Mobile versions. Microsoft has reengineered the platform with an intuitive user experience, but what really stands out is the fact that Microsoft has put serious efforts into tying all their consumer brands and services through the mobile platform – some of which have been long ignored in the mobile context, such as the Xbox and Zune services. At least in theory, the Windows Phone 7 series have great assets in touching many aspects of the consumer life: Xbox (entertainment), Zune (media), Windows 7 (computing), Bing (Internet) and Sync (Auto). On the flip side, the biggest challenge for Microsoft in the near to medium term is passing the form factor/emotional appeal of the device, a huge task for its OEM partners to overcome. Intel and Nokia team up to form MeeGo meego-v1.bmp Intel and Nokia have merged their Linux based Moblin and Maemo platforms to form “MeeGo”. In theory, the partnership between the mobile and computing giants is aimed at facilitating a development ecosystem that spans across media, connected homes, and in-vehicle use cases through the MeeGo framework. To begin with, Maemo had some success in showcasing its potential with the Nokia N900, while Intel’s Moblin has been a non-starter without any commercial launches. The new MeeGo platform is a step in the right direction by pooling the resources to build a compelling platform ecosystem, but it is late to the party. But it is clear that Nokia is making a commitment to this “super smart” device class, which is in itself affirmation of this emerging product class. As it has been in the past, the winners in this expanding ecosystem will not be counted by the assets or potential it offers, but how effectively they can turn the endless possibilities to a few realities – and for now Apple and Android ecosystem is well ahead of Windows Phone 7 and the MeeGo platforms. But one thing is sure – the future of platforms is beyond super or smart phones, and the suppliers that fail to embrace this approach will soon be irrelevant. - Bonny Joy

February 11, 2010 15:02 Alex Spektor
…Continued from part 1 PC vendors should be worried. It will be impossible to recreate the iPhone’s success. Furthermore the engineering-centric technology and design resources they currently rely on for their legacy products put them at a distinct disadvantage in today’s smartphone market, which is largely driven by engaging user experiences and a complementary set of compelling applications and services. Still, the operator smartphone craze means there is still plenty of room for good devices. Specialists like Dell and Acer can succeed if they prioritize the following issues.image · User Experience – The importance of a top-notch user experience cannot be overemphasized. Be it stock Android with top-shelf hardware, highly customized Android with decent hardware, or something in-between, handsets that provide an engaging experience will eventually make their way into consumers’ hands. · Content and Services – Technology and design will get you noticed, but content and services will get you used by consumers. This is where PC vendors are weakest. They should be proactively forging relationships with content/service providers. Working directly with carriers on on-portal offerings should not be ruled out. In fact, as operators look to drive on-portal usage, PC maker’s willingness to play is a potential differentiator from traditional handset vendors. · Platform Selection – Small vendors should focus on winning platforms. Samsung, with a huge distribution network, strong R&D resources, deep pockets, and dozens of SKUs can afford to support multiple open platforms and develop their own. Inexperienced vendors do not have this luxury. Indeed, platform selection is at the core of the PC-smartphone vendor’s issues, as it dictates the user experience and services capability. The experiences of HP, Asus, Palm and Motorola have shown that Windows Mobile has not been driving vendor success in the consumer smartphone market. Like its European rival Symbian, WinMo failed to evolve to address consumer demands for touchscreen-driven, Web-oriented user experiences. WinMo 7 and Symbian^4 will address these issues, though handsets based on these platforms won’t hit en masse until 2011. If PC vendors want to see meaningful smartphone sales, they need to expand beyond their familiar relationship with Microsoft and consider Android as their primary alternative. Dell has recently re-focused on Android to have a better shot at being consumer-relevant in the broad global market. This focus is necessary to allow PC vendors to concentrate on building the resources and relationships for content and services that are so critical in the mobile world. -Alex Spektor

February 10, 2010 17:02 Alex Spektor
When Apple launched the iPhone, it was the first PC maker to successfully cross the threshold into the handset space – a largely unfamiliar territory, dominated by veteran players and guarded by all-powerful carriers. Eyeing their rival’s success and fueled by early accomplishments in the emerging netbook segment, PC vendors have recently ramped up their interest in the smartphone space. So, is another rising star on the horizon?
  • HP was making Windows Mobile-powered PDA-phones under its iPAQ brand more than five years ago, and it continues to make iPAQ smartphones today. HP has been successful with iPAQ in the enterprise, where they can subsidize the device to their customers on lucrative services contracts. The iPAQ Glisten, a late-2009 release, looks fine in terms of specs, but is largely indistinguishable to consumers in the sea of WinMo QWERTY candybars.
  • clip_image002Asus, like HP, has been making WinMo phones for some time. Unlike HP, though, Asus tried to “think outside the box,” and recently teamed up with navigation giant Garmin. The pair put out the Linux-powered Nüvifone G60, which has been available via AT&T since early Q4 2009. But the device has been a disappointment, and we found that a poor user experience was one of the reasons for the weak sales.
  • Acer, who also launched about half a dozen WinMo phones in 2009, recently released the Android-powered Liquid smartphone. The Liquid’s Q1 2010 volume expectation is around one quarter of a million units, driven by quality hardware (Snapdragon, 3.5” display) at a reasonable price.
  • Dell, who previously played in the PDA space with WinMo-powered Axim devices, revealed the Android-powered Mini 3 smartphone, launched in China in late 2009 and due for release with AT&T sometime in the first half of 2010, just in time to boost the carrier’s portfolio after its pending iPhone exclusivity loss.
Let’s recall what has made the iPhone so successful: user experience, apps, industrial design, marketing, distribution, hype … the list goes on. Each of these factors has supported the others to propel the iPhone to stardom. The iPhone was a game-changer, and to repeat what Apple has done would be a feat. Given what it takes to be a star, can other PC makers still succeed in the consumer smartphone space? To be continued -Alex Spektor

February 2, 2010 19:02 cambrosio
In a recent meeting I attended, Henry Ford’s quote was used to remind us that consumers are rarely the source of innovation. I would suggest that this maxim also applies to the philosophy of mobile technology professionals developing new, emerging devices. The wireless industry is still driven by the engineering-driven belief that giving users “faster horses” (read mobile broadband) will be the fundamental driver of future non-traditional devices.   To be fair, we should note that early efforts are progressing - the Amazon Kindle ignited e-book developments; rabid press coverage of the Apple iPad continues; recently, even AT&T reported that it had added 1 million new “emerging” devices in Q4 2009.  Hold your horses, though – the future appears bright for e-books, but the iPad is largely unproven and pricey. At AT&T, the majority of these are sensors adding little incremental revenue, a sign that AT&T and Jasper are making progress and less a sign of consumer device innovation. During 2010 we will continue to hear many companies heralding their new emerging devices as “innovative” offerings that will drive consumer wireless penetration into the stratosphere.So how can device OEMs define emerging device innovation? The worrisome truth is that they will have to go far beyond their staple expertise in industrial design. While this will continue to be important, I would offer a framework including five important elements of innovative emerging devices (which we'll dissect in more detail in coming weeks): 1)      Branding – Innovative device brands will partner with compelling service, content, or application brands to dominate headlines and also realized profits; 2)      Use Case - Emerging devices designed or optimized for one or a select few applications as the “primary” use will be easily understood by consumers, and more easily valued for service delivery by operators; 3)      The user experience – The UX will continue to be the most important factor driving innovative emerging devices. This will be the most formidable hurdle for traditional OEMs; 4)      The wireless business model - A transparent business model where the wireless costs are embedded in the device price will ultimately be the most consumer friendly option; 5)     Distribution - Big brands will innovate by leverage existing resources and strong consumer awareness, directly and via partnerships with content and service players, to drive sell-through in traditional and online consumer channels. Chris Ambrosio

February 1, 2010 19:02 nmawston

February is here. And that can only mean one thing: Mobile World Congress (MWC). The world's largest wireless trade show takes place in Barcelona, Spain, from Sunday 14th to Thursday 18th. In between eating, drinking and sitting in the sun, I might even do a little work. Which handset players will be important and who should I go visit?

Nokia is a good place to start. Nokia will stage an off-site event called Connecting People. Connecting People is its longstanding theme to connect people and places with devices and contextual services. Nokia will no doubt unveil a new handset model or two, but we don’t expect anything seismic because Nokia will not want its products to get overshadowed by the noise of MWC.

Samsung will be about Bada, the vendor’s new platform which sits on top of a proprietary or Linux kernel. We recommend demoing its new Bada phone, to see if it matches up with Android, Apple and Symbian devices for usability and richness.

LG, like Samsung, will have a big stand at the show. LG is keen to reposition as a credible smartphone player for 2010 and there will be heavy promotion of its Android and Microsoft portfolios. LG is expanding (belatedly) into content and there should be a display of its 3-Screen 3-Way Sync converged-application service for smartphones, netbooks and TVs.

Qualcomm will be found in several smartphones and smartbooks using its high-speed 1GHz Snapdragon processor. The chipmaker will show its roadmap for the next wave of 1.3GHz (8X50A) and 1.5GHz (8X72) Snapdragons, available for commercial launches of devices over the next 6 to 18 months.

The much-hyped Google Android HTC Nexus One will be on show. However, the handset will be of less interest than the business model. I’ll do some discreet research and see if we can get more color on Google’s underlying plans for its direct-to-consumer online distribution strategy.

We will see a few HSPA+ and LTE demos this year. The dongle players, such as Huawei and ZTE, should have such devices on their stands. This will be a double opportunity to see how next-generation technologies are progressing, while examining how the emerging Chinese brands are performing.

That is a partial snapshot of who I will be visiting. How about you? Let me know by clicking on the Comments link.