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2009 Wrap-Up. 2010 Predictions, Part II.
27th December 2009
If you had to name one manufacturer who made an impact in 2009, it would probably be Apple. Apple's approach has been fundamentally different from its competitors, with the release of just a single model, the iPhone 3G S, which was really only an incremental update of the previous version.
Despite all this, Apple sales are booming and the end of long-standing carrier exclusivity agreements could well drive a massive increase in units shipped. A combination of sexy design, a slick user interface and a colossal range of downloadable applications make the iPhone very appealing to customers.
The problem for Apple is that consumers demand innovation, but Apple doesn't like to mess with a winning formula. The iPhone is particularly weak against the competition when you consider screen pixel count, multitasking abilities and camera resolution, so our best bet is that the fourth-generation "iPhone 4" will address at least some of these issues. Expect the "iPhone 4" to be announced in June 2010 at the annual WWDC event.
Significant handsets this year include the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, Nokia N97, Nokia N86 8MP and Nokia 6700 Classic. But in our view the most significant handset from Nokia this year is the Maemo-based Nokia N900, which at last enables them to break free of the restrictions of the Symbian OS so that they can compete more effectively with Apple and Google's Android OS.
Expect to see the Symbian S60 OS in more mid-market devices as high-end phones increasingly look to Maemo. Nokia have already indicated that they expect to produce fewer different models of phone, which should allow the company to focus more on marketing and promotion.
The Motorola CLIQ (or DEXT) is quite interesting in hardware terms, but it is Motorola's MOTOBLUR service that comes with it that is perhaps more significant. MOTOBLUR allows for seamless synchronisation of data across devices and locations, and it offers a range of services that could well challenge Apple. The second interesting handset is the Motorola DROID or the MILESTONE (depending on market) which brings Android 2.0 to customers in a really high end smartphone that has won considerable praise.
2009 saw very few announcements from Motorola, and apart from these two handsets there was nothing of significance. It is clear that Motorola have spent all of their energies on re-aligning their business, and the future looks much brighter than it did 12 months ago.
Palm only just survived 2008 with a massive cash injection from investors, and at the time it wasn't clear why anyone should want to bail them out. Eventually, Palm revealed the Palm Pre and Palm Pixi smartphones running their new and very powerful WebOS operating system.
WebOS is an excellent platform, and the Pixi and Pre handsets are pretty good, although there have been criticisms about build quality. The problem that Palm has is that the handsets are not selling in sufficient quantity, despite a major media campaign to shift them. Fundamentally, Palm need to start turning a profit before the money runs out, and that is looking unlikely.
The long-term future for Palm is not good. As a standalone company, we feel that it no longer has the resources to make these handsets a success, and no major manufacturer would be interested in buying Palm because WebOS won't fit into their existing strategy. We think it is unlikely that Palm will survive 2010, although we would dearly like to be proven wrong.
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