Thursday, January 22, 2009

Many phones, one cool phone and some phones

Today we know how many Nokia phones were sold and how many Apple iPhones were sold for the last quarter and it talks a lot about the way their marketing has gone.

Nokia shipped 15 million phones in the 3rd quarter down from 18 million in Q3 2007 and marginally lower than the previous quarter. Nokia did better on E-Series compared to N-Series.

In the same quarter, Apple's iPhone sold 4.4 millions devices which was significantly higher than last year but also significantly lower than the last quarter.

Nokia goes to market with enviably large lineup of consumer phones - N-Series and business phones - E-Series with basically the same underlying software S60 and is available on most markets and traditionally been strong in Europe, Middle East and Asia Pacific markets.

Apple is available in its iconic iPhone model *only* so far but has scooped the North American market. As it is getting available in other world markets, iPhone killer pretenders have started started to appear in these markets too denting Apple's ability to create the same impact as the North American market.

That Apple could garner the sales it has has shown that the market is always prime for neatly packaged and marketed product which is backed by *design* selling points. It has to be noted that iPod was a pointer in this direction. Apple replicated not only the design selling points of iPhone but also the revenue engine strategy    - App Store much line the iTunes service. Inevitable successes as they are they highlighted a sustaining business model which other players including Nokia could'nt figure out earlier. But it was anyway there to the see - the iPod model was there. Apple may well do the iPod redux for the iPhone - Nano and themes built around the same icon.

Nokia's Tube, its earnest challenger to iPhone comes with free music and seems to take the fight to the iPhone camp. However, the story is that the E-Series might hold the key for Nokia whose business phones are making compelling alternatives in the enterprise segment.

What about the other contenders? Samsung and LG are doing well in their own right but lose out on the content platform in the long run. HTC has emerged as a good contender with its own avatars of smartpones and then there is the Android factor. One area of mobile usage that is the mobile marketing will be tapped by Android phones when they are widely available.

Android has had a lot of negative press with long delays but has compensated with a winner in G1. With lot of takers for openhandsetalliance, Android is presenting a great means for many of the handset vendors to stay in the race. Many - the Samsungs, LGs, Motorolas, HTC may well gravitate towards Android for lack of compelling content and future could be a tug for equilibrium between Nokia, iPhone and the Android in most markets.

P.S.: I would like to post on some brave new phones sometime :)

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Broadband plans to beat recession

Broadband has lot of expectations loaded on it. During the talks of the slowing down of the economy in many of the worlds's nations, one theme is persistent - spending on infrastructure to create advance broadband networks to beat the downturn.

In the U.S., it it well known what Barack Obama thinks about broadband. Wireless broadband has consistently found a place of primacy in Obama's plans to revive the nation's fortunes. The idea is good to make wireless broadband as free and available as tap water and Obama's is keen to spend upwards of $6 billion to achieve this target. Broadband would be consistent theme running through Obama's presidency and I guess he will be one President who is going to be celebrated because of his technological vision.

In the UK there is talk that worldclass broadband is required for the economy to find its feet and get running again. Internet is seen to be the more important business tool around which a lot of disposable income will flow. The nation's plan machines are working feverishly to push for better broadband infrastructure to make it good enough for a lot of business transactions.

Now, what does this mean to India as one of the hubs of knowledge economy? Better broadband would translate to better offshoring and cheaper infrastructure costs and in turn better reach of services. India has to realize that the grand broadband plans laid out by countries is to be prepared for the revival of the economy. Free or cheap broadband can do wonders for India in education,  rural markets, relief activities and development at a grassroot level and also boost the retail segment at the topline. I remember reports about a national plan to provide free or cheap broadband on a very ambitious scale ( ET Link ) by *2009* - that day has come now and it would be better if the start is made even now to make good the promise of connectivity. Amid an earning streak by the telecom industry, there is no better time than now to get go on the grand plans for broadband.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

RIM bullish on India market

RIM has announced plans for selling *unlocked* BlackBerrys in India [ET ]. Redington has been drafted to play the local distribution support to work in tandem with telcos to push the niche smartphones to the *consumer* market. In the last post I highlighted the trend of smartphone sales picking up in India. BlackBerry has drafted a strategy specifically targeting the Indian market involving development of localized consumer-centric mobile applications and even considers launching an India-specific smartphone targeted at the consumer market. BlackBerry has had a good market in India in the enterprise segment with virtually every company rolling rolling out their push-email services on BlackBerry.

Around the same time comes the news of Motorola closing down its sales office in India [ET ]. Notwithstanding Motorola's recent troubles, this tells a tale of the changing market. The lower end of the market entices with volume, but the burgeoning vendors in this segment make it very unattractive in terms of margins. After a lull, the grey market is flourishing with lot of cheap handsets from China and elsewhere and they are taking the game out of the major vendors. Now the space in the higher end smartphone market is getting expanded and vendors should take cues from the policy makers and market to reap the dividends from momentous things such as 3G rollout.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

New trends [ET ] in mobile phone usage points to a marked increase in the sales of smartphones in India as compared to other mobile phones. This is a significant statistic because of two reasons. One, there are vendors who focus on non-smartphones for the Indian market and they can take some pointers from this trend. Two, the smartphones are priced at a very high premium by some vendors who can now think of volumes and make their offerings more affordable.

The mobile phone has become the most integrated gadget to people after the watch and its going to stay that way. And like watches people would start to want their smartphones to be the smartest of the lot. Simple swiss army knife-kind of smartphones with a list of features and having elegant form like those of Swiss watches would soon dominate the market. This has been exemplified the success of smartphones like BlackBerry which has really taken of well in India.

Smartphones' rise into the public imagination is great exemplified by Barack Obama's images of using his gadget. Obama's choice of smartphone also tells a lot about the trend. Have a look...

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Make it more - the 3G pie

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The new directions coming from the government is the idea of making the 3G license bidding regions called circles from existing 5 to 8. This is in line with the governments intention of making the most of revenue out of the 3G spectrum auction. A larger number of circles would make the amount for each region cheaper but would increase the total kitty. This would also allow smaller players to bid where it was difficult for them to foot the amount for a larger circle earlier. This move will be seen as a small bit done by the government for local players. As we can see the large players would like to have a bigger subscriber base in a bigger circle and would be ready to pay for it.

It has to be seen if the technical persons can give a go ahead about the new circle plan after looking at the feasibility of allocating spectrum in 8 new circles. There might be other objections for the new scheme from other stakeholders like telcos, other ministries, regulators and other policy bodies before a decision is visible. Auction might be possible in the near term only in Feb 09. In the meanwhile the telcos can strategize and restrategize for their best deals. 3G spectrum auction is moving at a slow and steady pace and we will have to see if all the players - the government, the telcos, the vendors and the content providers can cook up an exciting fare in time for the party.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

3G rollout India - so near yet so far

Last year saw many false starts on the 3G spectrum auction in India. Of all the frenzied activity witnessed on the 3G front MTNL's rollout of services in the NCR region was the only news to show off and larger subscriber population is yet to see any so much as a date on when 3G services will be available. The government wants to make sure that it wants the spectrum auctions to fetch the highest possible price ( called market price ) in the circumstances of economic situation worldwide. However with every successive delay of the auctions the bidders are getting wary and at best show lukewarm interest as in case of the response to the pre-bid meeting.

Related consequences to the delay in the 3G spectrum auctions are the delay in WiMax auctions and even the MNP developments. The latter also involves an auction process and right now all the delays are being attributed to the policy changes initiated by various stake holders within the cabinet. The government does not have any problem in the delays as the large delays would give time for the mobile subscriber base to build which in the Indian case has been happening at a rapid clip. As time goes, the government will have a better fruit to offer in terms of a larger subscriber base and can expect a higher price. As said before, the bidders are also not very keen at this point of time to hurry up.

All said, the date for the 3G spectrum auction is still 30th January 2009. If something happens by then the auction process goes through, it will be a big surprise as the news that is available points to more delays.