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2008 Wrap-Up. 2009 Predictions. (Part 4)

31st December 2008

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 Apple logo Apple

 Apple iPhone 3G The iPhone 3G was just about the bare minimum update for the original iPhone, adding 3G support and GPS and crucially a new Applications Store for buying and downloading software. Apple will need to come up with something even better next year, especially when it comes to the relatively poor camera.

There are persistent rumours of an "iPhone Nano" due next year - basically a very similar concept to the existing phone, only a lot smaller. Even if true, we don't expect to see a proliferation of iPhone models during 2009 with perhaps an "iPhone III" and "iPhone Nano" turning up at some point.

 Palm logo Palm

Palm has a long and extremely complicated history, but it has been struggling financially for some time. Palm recently secured $100m in funding to keep going. Well known as being one of the great innovators in the PDA market, Palm never managed to repeat its success when it came to smartphones.

 Palm Treo Pro 2008 hasn't been a particularly notable year for Palm with a handful of devices launched to moderate market success. However, in a couple of weeks time we expect Palm to announce their new "Nova" operating system, based on Linux. Nova will give backwards compatibility with older Palm applications while creating a much more modern platform for application development. We are expecting to see some new handsets launched at the same time.

So will Palm turn itself around in 2009? Sadly, we don't think so. Nova competes directly against the Android platform, but Android is not tied to any one handset maker. Sure, Palm's new OS can support legacy applications, but that's hardly going to attract new customers.

Our verdict: unfortunately, we don't think that Palm will survive 2009.

 Windows Mobile logo Microsoft

Windows Mobile 6.5 should make an appearance in the first half of 2009, followed by Windows Mobile 7 much later in the year. Version 6.5 is simply an enhancement of the current version 6.1, notable new features are expected to include a new version of Internet Explorer and an improved interface for touchscreen users. Windows Mobile 7 is a much more significant upgrade designed to compete better with the iPhone operating system.

 Zune logo Windows Mobile is now a firmly established operating system, and Microsoft show that they can compete effectively, if slowly, with the competition. Support for push email and device manageability is improving, and this means that Windows Mobile is making some inroads into businesses too.

Microsoft don't make phones, although rumours of a Zune-based handset have circulated and have been denied. We suppose that Microsoft is the only company that might be big enough to buy out HTC if they wanted to, but in fact we think that the "hands off" business model works very well for Microsoft and we can't see any reason for them to change it.

 Android logo Google / Android

 T-Mobile G1 We have waited a long time to see a handset running Android, and the T-Mobile G1 seemed to be worth the wait. Motorola is committing to Android in a big way next year, samsung and LG are reported to be following suit. There are rumours that Sony Ericsson may do the same, and the only major manufacturer that won't be going down the Android route is Nokia.

We have no doubt that Google and the other members of the Open Handset Alliance have enough clout to make Android a success during 2009, but we don't think that it will be a significant threat to the competition (by which we mean primarily Symbian and Windows). Over the next few years we should see some interesting developments as the Android platform continues to mature.

 Other Manufacturers Other Manufacturers

E-TEN, Toshiba, ASUS and HP came out with some promising Windows Mobile handsets during 2008. Expect more of the same, but we think they will still be niche players during 2009.

Sagem has been quiet during 2008, the loss-making French handset maker was disposed of by Safran to a venture capital company called Sofinnova who are determined to make some money out of the business.. it may well be that the current economic climate may benefit Sagem as it tends to make very good value-for-money handsets.

ZTE is perhaps a company to watch. This Chinese firm has enjoyed some success, especially with 3, Telefonica and Telstra, although handsets are usually branded with the name of the carrier rather than the manufacturer.

And Finally..

Mobile Gazette would like to wish all our readers a happy and prosperous 2009! It's likely to be a difficult year ahead, but the mobile phone industry is still one of the most dynamic and exciting businesses to be in.

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