Monday, September 8, 2008

Cell Phone Blues

A Video Camera You Can Call?

Last Friday, Nokia warned that they anticipated a bleak quarter, raising the spectre that, for the first time in years, they will lose market share. Today, Nokia holds roughly 40% market share, itself a feat in an industry that has literally had an impact around the world and changed how people communicate. However, with commoditization comes competition, and it's a battle now being fought as much on price as it is features, especially as much of whatever growth is left in this space is in the emerging markets where consumers are still very cost-conscious (but still expect high quality design, mind you.)

Into all of this, our friends in Mountain View will launch the first Android-based phone in the coming weeks. And we are not impressed, it seems, at least in some quarters. (That link is likely behind the FT registration page and so here's a summary: people want vertical integration, a consistent hardware/software stack, and not a lowest common denominator platform with a bunch of random apps sitting on top. See also here for a more acerbic but no less accurate take.)

As pointed out in the second of those links, this effort seems to solve a problem Google has but not one that plagues the general user population. Google wants to get into the mobile search and advertising space but has struggled to wrest control away from any of the existing players. Therefore, their - now predictable - response is to go it alone and to produce their own platform in the belief that technical advantages alone will ultimately win out.

Sound familiar? "Yes" if you only think Google but "no" if you think Apple where what they have done with the iPhone is to create a much more managed ecosystem built around a vertically integrated platform that they tightly control.

Be very interesting to see Apple's response once Android goes live, and subsequently to see if there's any real take up beyond the early-adopter few who just want to be first.

Me? Don't care. I want a phone to be no more nor less than a calling device with an address book, and packaged in the smallest form factor that's conceivably usable. Beyond that I want a PDA for e-mail, browsing etc. with a real keyboard so even I can type on it, clumsy and old as I am. But then I'm only one voice among billions, so the ultimate answer to this one will be up to the market to decide.

No comments: