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2008 Wrap-Up. 2009 Predictions. (Part 2)

31st December 2008

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 Nokia Nokia

The Finnish juggernaut continues to roll.. but is it unstoppable? Tougher competition and a deteriorating market could spell trouble during 2009.

 Nokia N96 Nokia's flagship launch during this year was meant to be the Nokia N96 - but it took so long to get to market that it was looking a bit old by the time it hit the streets, and many people realised that despite all the hype, the N96 was essentially the N95 with more memory and a TV tuner that didn't work in most areas.

 Nokia N97 Early next year, we should see the Nokia N97 which is Nokia's second touchscreen this year after the 5800 XpressMusic. The N97 is perhaps what the N96 should have been all along - on paper it looks like a fabulous bit of kit. (As we have mentioned before, the 5800 and N97 are not Nokia's first touchscreens). Nokia are very late entrants into this market, but initial indications are that Nokia have spent some time making sure that their touchscreen phones are actually very good.

 Nokia 2323 Nokia competes at all levels of the market though, and much nearer the bottom of their vast range are the Nokia 2323 and 2330 handsets which are aimed at getting information services and email into the hands of people who previously didn't have access to such things. Empowering the digital "have nots" could be a significant achievement for Nokia if it can pull it off.

However, Nokia realises that the market it changing and is also now eyeing the content market with products such as Ovi, N-Gage and Comes With Music. In some cases, this puts Nokia in direct competition with mobile networks themselves who usually like to provide content. The manufacturer-versus-network fight is likely to heat up during 2009 and will be interesting to watch.

Although smartphones will probably suffer a drop in sales during 2009, this is still an important market. Nokia will face tough competition from Android, Windows Mobile and whatever Apple has up its sleeve. During 2008, Nokia bought up Symbian completely and then created the Symbian Foundation to make the whole thing open source, presumably to compete on equal terms with Android which uses a similar business model.

 Nokia N810 WiMAX One thing that we have said before is that we think that the Symbian S60 platform has probably been pushed as far as it can go when it comes to high-end devices. Despite all the clever things that Nokia can do with S60, it is a pretty unpleasant thing to develop applications for and it is nowhere near as sophisticated as an OS like Android or the iPhone OS. Nokia does have the Maemo operating system though, as used in their Internet Tablets - and this could well end up on a phone during 2009.

Expect to see a touchscreen replacement for the E90 in February, and perhaps also an upgrade to the existing N96 (perhaps the N96i) in the first half of the year.

 Sony Ericsson logo Sony Ericsson

 Sony Ericsson W705 When Sony Ericsson was created seven years ago, it successfully turned around the ailing mobile phone businesses of both Ericsson and Sony. Initially, SE had a very small range of handsets - but almost every phone was a good one, and it was simple for potential customers to understand their product range. Recently though, the Sony Ericsson range has proliferated to the point where it is a complete mess. Sony Ericsson have acknowledged this, and intend to slim the product range down by 20%.. but we think that they really need to go much further than this. After all, the recent W705 is (we believe) the 28th "Walkman" handset in the range.. do we need this many Walkman phones? Of course not.

 Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 It isn't just the baffling range of handsets that is causing headaches, but a critical lack of high-end phones too. In the past, Sony Ericsson has been committed to the UIQ interface running on top of Symbian, but the UIQ project has not survived the recent changes in the Symbian market - so there will be no more UIQ phones in future. Sony Ericsson do have a high-end smartphone though, and it's a good one too - the Xperia X1.. the problem is that the X1 is made by HTC, and it isn't really a Sony Ericsson at all.

We said last year that we expected to see "Bravia" handsets in Europe, but we were wrong. Toughening market conditions and a lack of interest in mobile TV probably means that we won't see them in 2009 either.

Despite recent successes, 2009 is likely to be a very bad year for Sony Ericsson. Some people are even questioning if this joint venture will survive.

 Motorola logo Motorola

Motorola seems to be the eternal soap opera of the mobile phone industry. For several years their mobile phone division has teetered on the brink of collapse, and recent losses have been so big that many would argue that Motorola would be better off shutting down their mobile  Motorola AURA phone business completely. Originally, Motorola said that they would split the company and float the handset business off as a separate entity, but economic conditions are so poor that this is unlikely.

But it seems that Motorola isn't just going to curl up and die. We know that Motorola are spending a great deal of time and effort on developing Android handsets for the second half of 2009, and some of the rumoured phone designs for next year show a radical departure in style and function. The AURA can be regarded as a statement of intent - Motorola realises that it must innovate and differentiate itself if it wants to stay in business.

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