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2010 Wrap-Up. 2011 Predictions, Part IV
31st December 2010
HTC was one of the movers and shakers in 2010.. and it will be in 2011 too. Constantly setting new benchmarks that other manufacturers have to beat, HTC also produced what we believe is the year's best handset, the HTC Desire.
One of the biggest supporters of both Android and Windows Phone 7, HTC did take an unexpected and unwelcome detour with their own "HTC Sense" OS running on the HTC Smart handset. The world doesn't need any more OSes, and in our view HTC should concentrate on the platforms it already has rather than getting distracted with a side project.
Most remarkably, HTC has established itself as a well-known consumer brand in just a few years of selling handsets under its own name.. although of course HTC have been selling carrier branded devices such as the T-Mobile MDA range for years. It is hard to see where HTC can go seriously wrong in 2011 if they keep doing what they have been doing over the past few years.
Microsoft / Windows Phone 7
2010 has been a watershed year for Microsoft, with the launch of their much-anticipated Windows Phone 7 operating system that more-or-less throws away everything they have done before to come up with something that is actually very usable and different from rivals. Sales have been modest to date, with a reported 1.5 million handsets shipped to date.. but WP7 has the potential for huge growth if Microsoft can manage to capture the imagination of consumers.
But 2010 was also the year of Microsoft KIN - possibly one of the greatest tech disasters ever. A handset that nobody wanted, running on a software platform that seemed to be needlessly crippled, customers stayed away in droves and it appears to have sold only a few thousand units. In the end, Microsoft closed down the entire division responsible.. a division that had already been largely responsible for the death of T-Mobile's SideKick range.
The strategic battle in the smartphone market is desperately important to Microsoft, and it is unlikely that they will walk away without a fight. Few other companies have the marketing resources that Microsoft has, so expect to see Windows Phone 7 devices being heavily promoted as they become more widely available.
Google / Android
We said that Android would be the one to watch in 2010, and it certainly was.. and 2011 should be the same.
The combination of a large number of devices, huge application library and a constantly evolving operating system make Android a very attractive proposition for consumers. But on the other hand, each manufacturer and carrier likes to tweak the OS, leading to fragmentation.. and Android customers are often very annoyed about the lack of availability of new OS versions for handsets, often very expensive ones.
Android 2.3 "Gingerbread" will become widely available on new phones very quickly, with Android 3.0 slated for release sometime in the year, although many customers are still waiting for upgrades to Android 2.2 "Froyo" or even earlier versions in a few cases.
At the moment, Android is the only serious competitor to Apple's iOS in the smartphone market, and the continued battle between these two platforms should benefit all consumers as rivals add new features.
Other companies to watch in 2011
Toshiba's slow death has been awful to watch, we expect that 2010's limited releases are the last we will see for some time. Chinese manufacturers ZTE and Huawei made modest gains during 2010 and must be hoping to fulfil some of their promise during 2011. Acer continues to carve a modest niche for itself, but has failed to break into the market in a significant way. INQ Mobile is still around, but hasn't really delivered on its promises for expansion. Vodafone has shown promise in own-brand handsets, especially at the cheaper end of the market and this may well drive expansion into developing markets. Dell is determined to compete with Apple with a range of passable Android devices, but who really would choose Dell for a phone anyway?
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