To understand what is being prepared for 2009, we first of all have to look at what took place in 2008, and this was a year that was full of changes. Of course, the iPhone had its own privileged place in the hand sets department, thanks to its ability to change the perception and notions of what is a smartphone. But other questions came through in 2008, like the health effects of electromagnetic waves from mobile telephones, the awarding of the fourth 3G license in France and even the emergence of the developmental NFC services. The first part of this retrospective will cover the period between January and June 2008.
A retrospective on the mobile field 2008 - Part one
Health and mobiles
2008 curiously started with a lively debate about the electromagnetic waves that are emitted from mobile telephones and the supposed danger of selling mobile phones to children.
The target of these attacks was a Spanish company who had decided in December 2007, to launch a telephone for children over the age of 6, in France. Not really cautioning against this kind of product, the Health Minister didn’t want to take measures against it as the health risks have not yet been demonstrated, which meant that there was no need to caution their use. With this said, this subject was one that would continually reappear throughout the year.
The first clues about Windows Mobile 7
It was also during January that we had our first real look at the evolution of the Windows Mobile operating system from Microsoft, with some details about the multitouch functions being released.
Windows Mobile 7 should allow Microsoft to make up some lost time in terms of ergonomics, which was the biggest drawback against their system when compared to the competition, particularly Apple and the iPhone.
As the year progressed we would see the software layers placed over Windows Mobile which allowed you to get to the heart of the hand set without having to use the Operating System itself, making it user friendly in the same way as the iPhone and Blackberry. As for Windows Mobile 7, the best we can hope for is a release near the end of 2009 at best, and until then we have to be happy using the intermediary Windows Mobile 6.5.
4 million 2G iPhones sold in six months
The first release of the 2G iPhone took place in the United States and had a euphoric feel around it in July 2007, followed in November 2007 by its European release (UK, Germany, followed by France after some tough negotiations between Apple and Orange).
Apple succeeded with their bet of entering the mobile telephone world by announcing during MacWorld 2008 that they had sold 4 million handsets in 200 days. The success was undeniable in the United States, although a little less in Europe where the price wasn’t the same as for a smartphone and since the device was missing 3G compatibility. This made it a product that was reserved to loyal fans of Apple more then anyone else.
The competition has already studied their design and interface ergonomics that are controlled by an accelerometer and multitouch support. At this time, other companies were preparing their versions for the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, although not everything had yet been seen as the SDK and App Store were not yet on the scene in January 2008…
The sale of the first netbook: The Asus Eee PC 701
The beginning of 2008 also saw the launch, in partnership with the carrier SFR (Vodaphone) so that an associated mobile subscription could be provided, of the affordable netbook which was gold to connoisseurs.
Running Linux, and with a 7” display and WiFi connectivity, the Asus Eee PC 701 appeared on the market. It is unlikely though that anyone could have predicted that by the end of the year this would be a real revolution, inciting Asus to release more then a dozen versions, as well as having to react to the competition in the Autumn of 2008 when seeing what releases were forthcoming. There are now about fifteen different brands that have at least one netbook on offer in their catalogues.
Initially planned for an initiation to computers, the Asus Eee PC quickly started to move away from just their target audience to be used as a second computer that was not expensive and which is easy to carry with you, with all mobile phone carriers offering USB dongles so that you can connect via the mobile network.
This category is now more ergonomic then a smartphone thanks to its real keyboard and display superior to 5”, while being smaller then a laptop computer. Nearly all uses are possible including browsing the Internet and email, with the device not requiring a lot of resources to get the job done.
Copyright: Smartphones are also affected
Smartphones, with their ever increasing storage capacity, have attracted the attention of the Albis Commission, responsible for defining the taxes relating to copyright. Despite criticism relating to their methods to determine the copyrights of these devices, different taxation rates depending on the storage capacity of the device started to appear in January 2008.
Memory cards continue to increase in capacity, with large amounts of storage space being available so that the carriers can provide mobile music through related portals, increasing the development of mobile services.
But the way that the commission went about this would continue to annoy the mobile industry, makers and carriers, and would be the object of numerous debates throughout the year.
Nokia, King with their 40% market share
And while the debates about whether smartphones are also audio players like the others, Nokia showed their domination of the mobile telephone market. With 133 million mobile phones sold between October and December 2007, the Finnish giant would enter 2008 with 40% market share.
Present on all fronts, from the entry level to the top of the line, and in all markets from emerging countries to developed nations (even if the United States continues to elude it), the maker has taken advantage of their solid balance sheet and resources.
The iPhone is for the moment the annoyance to the major brands, with development of a new operating system being undertaken which uses a tactile interface. This operating system would only become available at the end of 2008.
The following quarters also saw good results. Of course, the financial crisis started in the United States in the summer of 2007, with its damage starting to spread although it seems that the mobile telephone sector is yet to be affected. For the moment.
We are still far from the pessimistic estimations that were made in the third quarter 2008 in terms of falling sales globally, but here comes the inevitable 2009.
The first appearance of the Garmin Nuvifone
Following the success of the iPhone, the specialists of autonomous GPS systems Garmin created a surprise by announcing the Nuvifone, a smartphone operating Linux which uses their know how in terms of GPS navigation.
It’s actually not as surprising as it could be; since the maker already had a range of PDA’s called the iQue, abandoned in 2006. But this time they are offering an innovative hand set which has a solid user interface.
Without wanting to really enter the smartphone market, the Nuvifone is positioned in the GPS smartphone segment, a category which saw more geo-localization services deployed in 2008, before expanding into middle of the line phones in 2009.
Unfortunately, while the concept was promising, the production seemed more difficult. After real visibility at the MWC 2008 in Barcelona, but with little to really show, the release of the hand set continues to be pushed out. Its launch is now planned for the spring of 2009, but there is still a lot of water to go under the bridge…
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