Will Mobile Manufacturers Survive the Transition to Consumer Electronics?


After seeing the latest music phones from Nokia, Motorola and Sony Ericsson, and reading about how Sony Ericsson is having trouble meeting demand for its new W800i Walkman phone, it dawns on me that what's happening in the mobile manufacturer world is that they are transitioning to Consumer Electronics. I'm probably the last person to grok this, but it seems to me there's going to be trouble ahead for traditional phone-only manufacturers, and a much easier time for more general CE companies like Samsung and Sony.

The reason is simple: For the past several years when you thought of a getting a mobile phone, you went to the company that made the best mobile phones and that was Nokia. They had the best quality in sound, the best UI, and the nicest physical phone design. Now consumers are starting to look at buying a mobile phone based on other factors besides whether or not it's a good phone, and this is where Nokia and Moto are going to start having trouble. Look at the luke-warm reception of the Moto iTunes phone and the Nokia 3250 compared to the wow-factor from people who talk about the Walkman phone. Sony knows how to create a great piece of consumer electronics - in fact, you could argue that they invented the category - Nokia and Moto and LG and Audiovox and all those know how to make great phones, now will they be able to make the leap?

This is only going to get worse as communications starts to take a back seat to other functionality. People have their phones with them and turned on 24 hours a day, yet the amount of time they spend actually using these devices is a lot less. It goes back to that foreground/background way of looking at the handsets. Consumers are going to want to take advantage of this little computer and entertainment device they have with them more and more. It's sitting in their pocket, it might as well be useful.

Will Nokia and Moto be able to create devices that entertain and inform as well as they communicate? I think time will tell. Right now these guys are swinging and missing on the music front, and *that* to me is the lowest fruit on the mobility tree.


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