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NEC Mobile to pull out of Europe

 NEC Mobile Europe 19th September 2006

Mobile Gazette has learned that NEC Mobile is reported to be finalising plans to withdraw from the European marketplace, at least temporarily.

Back in 2003, NEC seemed to be poised for success. Partnering with the fledgling Hutchison 3 network, NEC produced some of the first 3G phones for the European network, including the NEC E808 (pictured below) - a handset with a QWERTY keyboard and email support that was somewhat ahead of its time, followed by a number of other 3G devices including the successful E616 and the inexpensive NEC E338.

Despite a promising start, NEC's varied range of 3G devices failed to compete when the bigger manufacturers came on line. NEC then spent some time with low-end devices such as the NEC E101 before concentrating more on i-mode devices for carriers such as O2.

 NEC E808 Despite being among the first to market with both 3G and i-mode handsets, NEC's impact on the market had declined to almost nothing. This is clearly a shame, because NEC has shown great potential in the past.

NEC's (temporary) departure from Europe follows on from Panasonic Mobile, who quite Europe last year.. also vowing to return. But there's more to this than meets the eye: Panasonic/Matsushita and NEC, along with chipmaker Texas Instruments (TI) have formed a joint venture called Adcore-Tech to manufacture a new range of 3G and 3.5G technologies. Panasonic's 2005 announcement said that they would be developing future platforms on Linux, so the joint NEC-Panasonic-TI company could well be producing UMTS and HSDPA smartphones in the future.

It's definitely too early to write off NEC Mobile. Joint ventures between companies of this type have been very fruitful in the past, notably with Sony Ericsson but more recently with BenQ-Siemens. Both Panasonic and NEC have shown that they are class leaders in certain technologies - perhaps Adcore-Tech can pull everything together, and we'll see a newly resurgent NEC sometime in 2007/8.

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