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2010 Wrap-Up. 2011 Predictions, Part II.
31st December 2010
2010 was the year of the iPhone 4 and iPad, and Apple continued to lead the market by example. Don't expect anything big in terms of the iPhone and iPad models in 2010 - a minor tweak to both platforms can be expected, perhaps a slightly enhanced iPhone 4S and marginally improved iPad 2 can be expected.
Apple's strong performance in sales has been partly due to the end of the old carrier exclusivity agreements that they had in previous years. The exception is the US, where the iPhone is exclusive to AT&T.. here there is great demand for a CDMA version to run on the Verizon network, and if that happens then it will eat into one of Motorola's strongest markets with the DROID line of devices.
Apple is also at the heart of several different lawsuits over patents, which have cursed the mobile phone industry during 2010 and promise to be even worse during 2011.
2010 was a particularly difficult year for Nokia, but the extent of the problem is masked by continuing strong sales of devices. Nokia's main problem is trying to plan for tomorrow, and to do this they appointed a new CEO and have had several senior management changes to make the business more competitive.
This time last year, Nokia had just announced the Maemo based Nokia N900.. but in February Nokia abruptly announced that the Maemo platform was to merge with Intel's Moblin OS to form a new operating system called MeeGo. Almost a year has gone by, and still Nokia have not produced a MeeGo device - something they desperately need to compete against Android.
Because of this gap in the top of the market, Nokia have renewed effort in their Symbian line-up with high end handsets such as the Nokia N8 and Nokia E7. However, Symbian has had a tough 2010 with the high hopes for an open multivendor OS smashed as other manufacturers walked away from the operating system leaving it as virtually a Nokia-only effort.
There are persistent rumours that Nokia may produce a Windows Phone 7 handset next year.. something that would be a complete break with tradition, but there is a certain amount of sense and we suspect that such a device would be very popular.
Securing Nokia's future will take a lot of work. Some people think that it is already too late.. and some people think that this is the sort of thing that Nokia have dealt with before. There's certainly a lot of life and some fight left in this company yet.
Now almost fully committed to Android, Motorola and rivals HTC and Samsung are fiercely competitive when it comes to high-end devices. Motorola's future is at stake here, and it definitely seems that their engineers and designers have risen to the challenge.
One of Motorola's key successes has been with the Verizon network in the US where it makes most of that carrier's "DROID" line of smartphones. Critically, there is no version of the iPhone available for Verizon and this has given Motorola a market boost.. but if Apple do launch a CDMA version of their popular handset then Motorola could be badly hit.
From next year, Motorola's mobile handset division will split off from the rest of the company to form a new business called Motorola Mobility. The market capitalisation of this new company is about $7 billion, which means that it is a relatively small player in the market and could be the target for takeover or merger, which could be interesting.
As we predicted last year, Palm lost its independence and was taken over by HP. This assures the continuation of Palm branded smartphones.. for now.
HP's long term development plans seem to involve embedded Palm's excellent WebOS in tablets and print devices to get the maximum use from it. However, despite HP's deep pockets, it is unlikely that they will stay in the smartphone market unless sales pick up.
Unfortunately, HP is not a "sexy" brand, more a "dull and reliable" one.. so it looks like the Palm name may stick around for a while yet.
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