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2008 Wrap-Up. 2009 Predictions. (Part 3)

31st December 2008

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 Samsung logo Samsung

Samsung's market position remains strong, and some efforts have been made to make their range less confusing with a new naming convention and also the new "BizBee" sub-brand for Windows Mobile.

 Samsung Soul There have been some great handsets during 2008 such as the i8510, the Omnia, Pixon and Soul. Samsung are the only mainstream manufacturer to support dual-SIM phones, and their vast product range covers almost every imaginable market niche.

 Samsung Omnia Unusually, Samsung supports both Symbian and Windows Mobile devices plus its own proprietary operating system. Next year we expect to see Android handsets too. But although the i8510 is possibly a better Nokia than a Nokia, Samsung's Windows handsets look a bit dull compared to HTC.

One problem we see for Samsung is image. They have made some really great handsets this year, but even the best of them seem a little dull. Take the Omnia, for example - it's a great phone but it simply isn't as exciting as the iPhone. To be fair, Samsung have tried to create more of a "buzz" around their products and we can only assume that they will keep trying during 2009.

 LG logo LG

2008 was certainly the year of the touchscreen as far as LG was concerned. A combination of stylish handsets and good marketing have helped to secure a strong market position. In particular, the Secret, Renoir and Cookie handsets are worth noting.. although the new KS360 could well be a very different type of handset that will enjoy some success.

 LG KS360 Despite having a good 2008, there could be some problems in store during 2009. LG's market share is largely based on midrange fashion phones which could be hit by poor market conditions. Although LG also have plenty of cheaper phones, they don't have the brand recognition of other rivals. LG's efforts in the smartphone market are virtually zero, but perhaps we will see an Android handset later in 2009.

LG have done well to carve themselves a particular market niche, but that niche could be under threat.

 HTC logo HTC

 HTC Touch Diamond HTC have received a lot of press attention during 2008 for handsets such as the Touch HD and Touch Diamond, plus the HTC-manufactured T-Mobile G1 and Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1. Despite this, HTC are a relatively small company concentrating on the upper end of the market.

 HTC Touch HD Apart from the G1, all of HTC's phones run Windows Mobile which makes them a key partner for Microsoft. HTC have also put in some considerable effort to improve the Windows Mobile interface with their TouchFLO software, giving HTC a very strong position in the market.

Our big question about HTC is this: why did nobody buy it when they had the chance? You could see that HTC's products would fit in nicely with the product ranges of some of their competitors. Out of the traditional "big five" manufacturers, only Nokia and Samsung are really putting up much of a fight in the smartphone market so if one of the three others acquired HTC it could certainly strengthen their positions. The problem is that HTC has grown so large and money is so tight during 2009 that the opportunity has passed. Give it a few more years, and perhaps HTC will end up buying one of the big five instead?

 RIM logo Research in Motion (BlackBerry)

 BlackBerry Storm Something of a media darling at the moment, RIM broke into a new market with the 9500 Storm.. but to very mixed reviews. But RIM have also expanded their more "traditional" ranges with new handsets in the Curve and Pearl ranges, plus the 8220 Flip.

A little like HTC, there are no direct competitors to RIM.. but for different reasons. Despite progress in the consumer market, RIM is still a company that sells heavily to corporate customers who want to use the BlackBerry push email solution. As you might expect, BlackBerry devices and the BlackBerry  BlackBerry Pearl Flip Enterprise Server are designed to go together. As a result, partly through inertia, and partly because RIM's products are pretty good, corporate customers tend to stick with their BlackBerry set-ups.

Perhaps the main threat to RIM comes from Microsoft and their push email support for Microsoft Exchange servers. Of course, Microsoft don't make handsets - but there is an enormous choice of compatible devices from different manufacturers.. and not just on the Windows platform either.

The bottom line is that increased competition for corporate customers means that RIM must target small businesses and consumers in order to grow. The 9500 Storm was an attempt at this, whether or not it succeeds remains to be seen.

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