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Requiem for the Blackberry Dream

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on September 21, 2013

Z10-HandsOn-02-578-80

Blackberry has finally cuts its jugular and the ride has winding down. Its been in the making for over 3 years now. The revenue and device shipment numbers are pretty surprising given how weak it is – the situation at Blackberry is much worse than anticipated. A couple of questions to be answered for Blackberry at this critical moment…

BB rise and fall

Where Blackberry disconnected?

1. An ageing portfolio that never saw much in terms of innovation – There were always a handful of Blackberries – Storm, Bold, Curve, Torch – 4 devices through 4 critical years when Apple and Android stormed the markets.
2. The customer experience was very below average – The BES and BBM were great services – but Blackberry was mighty bland in designing experiences around the customer and these services.
3. In an age where Applications are key and must be scalable across platforms, BlackBerry apparently provided no incentive to port many older BB7 business apps that enterprise companies use to run on BB10 on launch. That was being stupid.
4. Blackberry misread the BYOD wave in enterprise, blinded by its past glory of securitized enterprise solution. The segment where Blackberry was unassailable till sometime back -has simply moved on to other solutions from companies like include Citrix, MobileIron, Maas360, Microsoft and Airwatch.
5. Customers today are averse to be bogged down in their choices- to a hardware with a service bundle. They value flexibility in terms of choosing their own device and “Appizing” it with enterprise and security features.
6. The Q10 and Z10 was a case of wrong targeting – Blackberry could have probably done better with mid level and entry level phones for the customer – Their carrier commitments would have given them some solid seeding in the market and made numbers happen. As the portfolio is now pruned, it is interesting to note that within 7 months of launch, the Z10 is now being re-positioned as a mid tier device for emerging markets. The concern still remians that Samsung is eating everybody’s lunch in the mid segments across markets.

What do the current set of actions at Blackberry signify?

Cutting the headcount hardly addresses any of Blackberry’s pressing needs of the day.However, I don’t think anybody could do much better with it. The current cuts helps cleans things up for any type of potential deal or acquisition that they’ve been very forthright about seeking. Beaten on Hardware and pushed out of its enterprise security space- It’s probably going to find limited value for most potential buyers.Cutting operating expenditures deep is the best they can do to try to stabilise this ship.

Is Blackberry Attractive? What parts?

Even if Blackberry were to dissolve its hardware arm and its services arm and use its services arm – it would hardly be a cake walk as one would otherwise expect. The BYOD and the Apps space has cannibalized Blackberry’s USP. It is hardly the incumbent in the enterprise market.

Blackberry’s agreements and contracts with hundreds of mobile operators could be valuable to someone who has an intent to engineer a new mobile global network of devices or services (Apple, Google, Visa, Mastercard).

So, what can Blackberry expect?

The best Blackberry can hope for is a Nokia-style takeover, though who would actually take over is tough to imagine.

The other possibility is that a leaner BlackBerry will abandon the consumer market once and for all and get rigorous about becoming a niche company focused on a particular customer — one that needs security, control, and a few particular tasks done remarkably well, possibly even as a software rather than a hardware company. If the company is deciding to evolve to a service company, Blackberry needs to act small and become innovative like a startup

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Look what the Smartphones have disrupted now – Jeans!

Posted in Technology impact on economy and population by Manas Ganguly on September 17, 2013

As user, usage and habits wrap around the omnipresence of smartphones, handhelds are exerting disruptive influences on other industries completely in unrelated dimensions. Case in point – with the profusion of tablets, phablets and smartphones regularly beating the 5″ mark, jeans and trousers brands are under pressure from their customers to increase the dimensions of the pockets to carry phones easily and comfortably.

Pants with Mobile pockets

U.S. casual wear maker Dockers is reengineering the pocket configurations of it jeans and khakis to keep up with the needs of buyers who are phablet users, many of them will be lugging along pocket devices this year that could breach the 6-inch. Dockers recommends the Mobile Pocket Khaki, which according to Dockers is a perfect fit for the super-sized smartphones.

The usual belt clips are difficult solutions because of the size of the devices. Pockets are being designed to carry super size phones in a manner that the phones do not fall off – and are comfortable to carry as against the sensation of lugging a 150 gram monster around.Also the pockets need to take care that the device is not subjected to long hour bend stresses (What a phone in the back pocket would experience while a person would sit – the key here is damage to the front panel). One would also have to factor in that many of the devices would actually share pocket space with coins and other elements likely to scratch the surface. All these and possibly more considerations go to redesign pockets around smartphones.

Expecting the Fall Winter or Summer collections of designers to now change to accomodate super sized phones in large size pockets.

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Multicores powering Smartness!

Posted in Device Platforms by Manas Ganguly on September 7, 2013

Multiple cores for smartphone apps processor chips is an increasing trend, reports Strategy Analytics, with 66% of smartphones using multi-cores in H1 2013 – double the amount of H1 2012.

Multi-core penetration continues to rise and, by end of this year, could cross 75% with smartphones containing multi-core processors now selling for under $100.

Processors Smartphones

Qualcomm leads in the multi-core market, Spreadtrum in the single core.

For the first time, multi-cores out-shipped single-core in Q3 2012, thanks to strong traction for flagship chips such as Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 and low-cost Cortex-A5 / Cortex-A7 chips from multiple vendors.

Quad-core smartphone applications processor shipments registered five-fold growth in 1H 2013 compared to 1H 2012, while single-core smartphone applications processor shipments declined by 14% in the same period.

Qualcomm led themutli-core market with 43% volume share followed by Apple, Samsung, MediaTek and ST-Ericsson in 1H 2013.

Qualcomm overtook Apple to become the leading multi-core vendor in Q4 with in the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 among others.

NVIDIA’s upcoming LTE Tegra chip Tegra 4i could generate more volume in the smartphone market.

HiSilicon, Huawei’s in-house silicon designer, has its K3V2 quad-core chip. Broadcom, Intel, Marvell and Spreadtrum started shipping multi-cores in 1H 2013.

Single-core has the highest baseband-integrated chip penetration while quad-core segment has the lowest baseband-integrated chip penetration. This can be attributed to time-to-market advantage with stand-alone applications processors.

While it is debatable how many number of cores would be enough, the market is expected to see the first true octa core chip from MediaTek later this year.

Mobile Phone Industry’s a bitch! (Unforgiving)

Posted in Industry updates, Mobile Computing, Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on August 25, 2013

How the high and mighty fall aside to give way to new blood!

Thats the perpetual script of the mobile phone industry… You miss the bus once – there isnt any catch up left to do. Industry marquees such as Nokia, Motorola, Blackberry, Sony, HTC have seen their growth and margins erode – caught unawares amidst scope and landscape changes. There seems to a pattern where each vendor reaches a peak share, though that peak varies greatly in value and then goes into a decline, which again varies from drastic to gradual.

Phone OEM Shares of Profit Revenues

The only ones who have bucked the trend so far is Samsung and Apple – though Apple is beginning to show weakness. However, if the industry trend were to continue Samsung would hit its decline within an year – give it a couple of years at maximum.

Source: Asymco

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Gartner: Q2 2013 Smartphone and Mobile Phone Market Shares

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on August 20, 2013

Android and Samsung gain, Apple and the iOS stumble, Microsoft gains and Blackberry looses – The story doesnot change in the Global Smartphone and Feature Phone markets. Gartner seonds the numbers provided by IDC – showcasing the nearly irrevocable rise and rise of Android at the expense of everyone else.

Apple seems to be caught between a rock and a hard place: go for market share with cheaper iPhone then risk losing premium status; stay premium then risk losing relevance. Apple’s performance outside the US market seems to be weakening. Samsung on the other hand appears to have succeeded in straddling the smartphone landscape.

Gartner - Global Smartphone Sales

Nokia’s smartphone numbers indicate it as the come back kid. In its Q2, 2013 report, Nokia reported a rise in Lumia shipments, to 7.4 million, and a drop in feature phone shipments, to 53.7 million. However a neagtive movement on the ASPs pegged it down. Currently, the 30% increment of sales in Lumia’s didnot offset the southward movement of ASPs. Nokia’s smartphone balance and its profitability has still not found a balance.

Q2 2013 Gartner

The Chinese foursome of Huawei, ZTE, Yulong and Lenovo are beginning to dominate the positions 4 to 7 in the smartphone and mobile phone charts indicating the growing strength in China and other Asian smartphone markets.

As smartphones massify and the markets move towards the lower end ASP points, it would be interesting to note how Samsung, Apple and Nokia play out and how the Chinese vendors pick pace. It will be critical for the smartphone makers to step up in the mid-tier and also be more aggressive in emerging markets. Innovation, after all cannot be limited to the high end.

Smartphones eating out Digital Camera segment

Posted in Device Platforms by Manas Ganguly on August 9, 2013

Traditional Camera makers face tougher times in markets with higher smartphone penetration.

digital Camera

As smartphones with better cameras and increasingly sophisticated optics become the de-facto camera for consumers, camera majors such as Canon and Nikon are cutting their forecasts as camera markets entering long term declines. Consumers value the social networking aspect of smartphone cameras, which allow sharing of images immediately. Secondly the key is convergence and having to carry only one device and the convenience of a single terminal. In July 2013, Canon lowered its full year profit forecast by 16%. Nikon followed this by cutting profit forecasts, especially due to slow down in the digital camera segment.

Slowly and steadily, Cameras are getting sidelined as specialized devices that cater to specific types of users, such as professionals and advanced amateurs. Worldwide camera shipments fell 29 percent in the first five months of 2013, according to the Camera & Imaging Products Association in Tokyo. IDC mirrors this sentiment and forecasts that the global digital camera market is forecast to shrink 29 percent to 102 million units next year compared with 144 million in 2010. On the other hand, smartphone shipments are expected to rise about 32 percent to 928 million units as per market-research firm TrendForce. Samsung, Nokia, iPhone, Sony and the likes are beginning to take over the casual photography and the digital camera space.

Related: Connected Camera Begins!

Gartner: Q1, 2013 Mobile Phone and Smartphone Market shares

Posted in Industry updates, Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on May 15, 2013

Gartner’s Q1, 2013 mobile phone and smartphone shipment numbers provide the same set of observations

1. The total mobile phone shipment numbers have been stagnant YoY (425.8 million Q1, 2013 versus 422 million Q1, 2012) …
2. …. Bogged by 22% decline in feature phone shipments (215.7 million Q1, 2013 versus 275 million Q1, 2012)…
3. …. And Buoyed by 43% increase in the smartphone shipments (210 million Q1, 2013 versus 147 million Q1, 2012)!

World Wide Mobile Phone Sales

4. Smartphone sales accounted for 49.3 percent of sales of mobile phones worldwide in the first quarter, up 34.8 percent year-on-year.
5. Only the Asia/Pacific region contributed to mobile phone sales across the globe, with a 6.4 percent increase year-on-year. More than 226 million mobile phones were sold to end users in Asia/Pacific in the first quarter of 2013, which helped the region increase its share of global mobile phones to 53.1 percent year-on-year. China saw its mobile phone sales increase 7.5 percent in the first quarter of 2013, and its sales represented 25.7 percent of global mobile phone sales, up nearly 2 percentage points year-on-year.

Smartphone Gartner Q1, 2013

6. Samsung rules the smartphone roost growing by 51% YoY. In Fact, Samsung presence in Smartphone segment is so overwhelming that its sales and market shares are almost equivalent of its next 4 competitors put together (Apple, LG, Huawei, ZTE)
7. Apple, is estimated to have secured 18.2 percent of global marketshare, a drop of 4.3 percentage points. Apple’s redemption has been the Chinese market with the lower price of the iPhone 4 making China a key revenue generator for the tech giant. However, with no new products due from the Apple stable until the fall, the next quarter may drag Apple’s market shares significantly downward.

Smartphones by OS

8. In terms of operating systems, Android continues to race ahead of rival systems, claiming 74.4 percent of global marketshare. 156.1 million smartphones running Google’s operating system were sold in the first quarter, whereas Apple’s iOS claimed an 18.2 percent slice of the market with iPhone sales. With new OSs coming to market such as Windows,Tizen, Firefox and Mozila, one can expect some market share to be eroded, but not enough to question Android’s volume leadership.

Is Apple reliving Nokia? (Part II)

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on May 4, 2013

This is the second part of a two part blog on Apple reliving the mistakes that Nokia made 4-5 years back. Read Part I here.

Both Nokia (2007) and Apple (2012-13) were trying to time and control consumer preferences in terms of the features and the screen. Conversely, that was akin to letting the competition in thrugh the back door. Instead of creating the future by out-innovating on the feature roadmap – Both the companies were possibly trying to amass the cost benefits from standardized feature formats.

Tim Cook’s comment on this issue, “Our competitors have made some significant tradeoffs in many of these areas to ship a larger display. We would not ship a larger display iPhone while these tradeoffs exist. Some customers value large screen size. Others value other factors such as resolution, color quality, white balance, reflectivity, power consumption, compatibility of apps, and portability.”

The strongest parallel is how both companies started fighting the consumer preference for larger displays at the peak of their profitability… and then dug in as margins began eroding rapidly. Sample this: Phablets as a segment are already likely to make up more than 15% of smartphone market in 2013 – And Apple chooses to give this market a miss. At the peak of its prowess, Nokia executives talked about the performance trade-offs of big-screen phones: power consumption troubles plaguing big-screen phones; surveys showing that most consumers prefer smaller models. On and on and on, an endless stream of justifications and carefully constructed defenses, lecturing consumers about what they should want to buy. Do you see the pattern?

Apple already has a well learnt lesson – the iPad Mini which was sacrilegious in terms of Steve Jobs’ definition of a tablet is the one that is holding the fort for Apple against the medium/low cost Androids.

AppleHas Apple hit the peak or is it a seasonal variation?

Secondly, Apple’s smartphone market shares now seem to be on the wane with Androids from Samsung doing the pincer attack – both from the top end and the economy smartphones. As smartphone penetration moves from early adopters to mass-market and laggard consumer segments, the smartphone as a product will be less dependent on technical superiority, and more dependent on reliability and value – and it is Apple’s market to loose. (The gainers will mostly be the ZTE, Huawei and Alcatels of the world). As reported by Juniper, Samsung’s smartphone volumes are 2X that of Apple’s. AllianceBernstein predicts that Apple’s market share in smart phones will fall to about 12% this quarter, compared to 23% in the same quarter of 2012. Further, the firm predicts that Apple’s market share may fall into single digits next quarter. IDC’s Q1 market shares also show Apple slowing down on its growth trajectory (YoY).

Apple needs to look at the next evolution of iPhone – the mid level low cost iPhone. The iPhone 5S is already confirmed to be only an incremental over the iPhone5 – and is not going to incite mass hysteria as iPhones normally have done. A low cost iPhone could also be critical for Apple especially because ABI estimates the low cost smartphone market will more than triple, in devices sold, between now and 2018 whereas the mid-range will grow at only (roughly) 50%.

For the present, Apple and Tim Cook look to be in a denial state – which is further going to bleed Apple. The high margin strategy is a great things for share holders – but then market presence and numbers is quite another thing. For the love of Apple, I hope it doesn’t going the Nokia way.

Addendum: Just read that Apple may finally be looking at iPhone low cost model and saw a couple of photos as well. Will this turn the tide or is the initiative lost already

Addendum 2: A further validation of loss of Apple’s grip in the smartphones segment is Apple’s declining profit share of the global smartphone industry. Between Q1,2012 and Q1, 2013, Apple’s profit shares of the global smartphone industry declined from 74% to 57%.

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IDC Q1, 2013: When Smartphones prevailed over Dumbphones

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on April 27, 2013

Manufacturers shipped 216.2 million smartphones worldwide in Q1, 2013, compared with 189 million regular cellphones, according to IDC. IDC Q1, 2013 numbers compare facorably to 402.4 million units in the Q1,2012 (YoY) and down from 483.2 million units in the Q4, 2012.Smartphones thus made up 51.6 percent of the 418.6 million mobile phones shipped. The shift to a global majority of smartphones is now being driven by consumers in developing countries such as China, India and Indonesia.

Smartphones IDC

IDC Smartphones

Samsung retains the smartphone crown taking 32.7% of the market shipping out 70.7 million smartphones – thus becoming the defacto Android standard. Samsung’s up 61% over a year earlier.Apple slipped in its numbers to close Q1, 2013 at 17.3% of the smartphone market share with 37.4 mln units. Apple’s market share market share fell to 17% from 23% a year earlier. Samsung’s dominance of the smartphone markets is so superior that it ships more smartphones than its next 4 competitors put together.

Mobile Phones IDC

Total Mobile phone shipments increased 4% YoY driven solely by 41% increase in smartphones compensating 19% drop in dumbphones.

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Tablets – Why Marketers need to move out of the “Tablet – a Fad” Perspective!

Posted in e-commerce, Mobile Computing, Mobile Data & Traffic by Manas Ganguly on April 11, 2013

For many of the marketers out there – there is not a great case for Tablets and Smartphones together. Most of them view tablets as a passing fad. This equation is perhaps complicated by the announcement of Phablets as a hybrid form and use factor! However, is Tablet really a fad?

A recent report published by the Adobe Digital Index is an eye opener. For February 2013, Tablets are attributed to be driving more traffic to websites than smartphones. The report is based on 100 billion visits to more than 1,000 websites worldwide over the last year – hence this isnt a fluke that you had blow over. Adobe attributes this shift in web browsing patterns primarily to the device’s form factor, which lends itself to leisurely (and more comfortable) browsing than smaller touch devices.

adobe-report-tablets-620x343

Listing down a key points on how and why Tablets are not a fad. They are here for good-
1. Frankly, with both WiFi Tablets and Entry-level Smartphones penetrating the $50 price point – the screen size is a big enabler for tablets.
2. As WiFi hotspot roll outs gather momentum – Tablets will push more and more of data.
3. So while Smartphone gathers numbers in the low end – it is the larger screen size devices (3.5″ – 4.0″ – 5″ – 7″- 9.7″) which will posssibly drive higher data consumption.
4. The customer at the economy end of connected devices ($50-$100) tends to use his device as a media machine – again for the $50-70 price – a tablet provides greater value than a 2.8″-3.5″ smartphone given the profusion of pirated content.
5. Tablets are also driving penetration across segments such as education, insurance for the large screen internet access advantage
6. For the Phablet space – this is a sub-category branching out into becoming a category by itself – but its numbers will take some building up – and the pricing still is $200 & above.
7. With tablet growth rates still well above smartphone growth rates, expect this gap to widen
8. Traditionally because of the higher screen size the engagement time on tablets has been higher than the smartphones as well.

Interestingly enough, in mature economies, Tablets have found yet another niche. Tablets are increasingly being used shopping activities.Adobe found that 13.5% of all online sales were transacted via tablets during the recent holiday season. Furthermore, as of January 2012, researchers found that consumers using tablets spent 54 percent more time per online order than their counterparts on smartphones, and 19 percent more than desktop/laptop users.

Adobe- report-tablets-1-v3-620x339

Thus the key take away from the Adobe report is this – tablets and smartphones are two different animals. Based on consumer use cases, one does not replace the other because mobile device owners are using tablets and smartphones to accomplish different tasks. This has implications on the way e-commerce companies as well as media companies and online content distributors would play up to serve the user. So this really gets into single device – multi use cases scenarios – all of is still building.

Thus i come back to my initial point – Marketers who are apprehensive of the scale and scope of tablets and are unable to fix “proper” answers to tablets, need to understand, there is no single answer… and the answers too are evolving at a fast clip! The risk that they run in trying to perfect the business cases and create understanding is that they could be left out of the markets. Proposition here is possibly not a case of inspiration but of evolution!

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