Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dangers in the smartphone market?

This isn't anything new--it's 3rd quarter news--but was recently posted on the WSJ in a short article about where the fourth quarter could be headed.
Tech companies sold 36.5 million smartphones—devices that can connect to the Internet and perform other tasks in addition to making calls—in July, August and September, according to researchers at Gartner. That’s 11.5% more than the same period in 2007, which is the slowest growth rate Gartner has ever recorded. Nokia sold 15.4 million of its devices, Research In Motion sold 5.8 million BlackBerrys, and Apple sold 4.7 million iPhones. Nokia’s sales for the quarter shrank 3%, RIM’s grew 81.7% and Apple, which introduced a new iPhone around the start of the quarter, saw its sales grow a staggering 327.5%. LINK
Main point: seemingly dramatic growth in 3Q (for RIM and Apple at least) but actually the slowest growth ever recorded in the sector. As the recession knocks these numbers back for the fourth quarter of 2008 and first quarter of next year, I wonder whether corporate buys are going to decrease more than consumer buys? If so, it will probably hurt RIM relatively more than Apple. I also wonder about the opportunity in the developing world, because it seems to me that's got to be one big growth opportunity for smartphones--low income consumers and small businesses for whom smartphones ARE the computer and on-ramp to the Internet. Nokia certainly has their developing world strategy dialed in--that's been their strong suit for a long time. Is this a mitigating factor in a recession and will this allow Nokia to keep pace or exceed Apple and RIM in future quarters? I wonder how good RIM's developing world strategy is? What's Apple's strategy? The iPhone is certainly the best portable device alternative to a laptop. I would think this would be the device of choice for anyone in the world who has no computer. Can Nokia match this with their latest high-end product offerings? Does RIM even care to be competitive with consumers in places like India, Russia, Brazil and Turkey?

Relevant to this discussion--for which I am not dialed in enough to have anything more than questions--is Lenovo's sales strategy which de-emphasizes growth opportunities in the U.S. and European markets and focusses on developing countries: see recent Fortune magazine article on this approach: LINK. What relevance does this have for the smartphone market?

See also this WSJ article on mobile phone usage in poorer nations: LINK.

Aside: at least in Munich, at the opening of the Apple store, what recession???? Take a look at this shot of panorama of the opening: LINK. Dramatic crowds as always! RIM, Nokia, Microsoft aren't worried when this happens over and over and over again?

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