2008 Wrap-Up. 2009 Predictions. (Part
31st December 2008
The Finnish juggernaut continues to roll.. but is it
unstoppable? Tougher competition and a deteriorating market could spell
trouble during 2009.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
recent successes, 2009 is likely to be a very bad year for Sony
Ericsson. Some people are even questioning if this joint venture will
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 phone business
completely. Originally, Motorola said that they would
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.