Research Notes

Smartphone “battle of the giants” commences

Strand Consult

Microsoft and Orange launched today the first commercial Smartphone running the Microsoft operating system “Smartphone 2002” and have thereby started on a new chapter in mobile history.

Microsoft, whose operating systems and office packages are being used world-wide in most companies and homes, have been keeping us all waiting for this product, which for some years has been “just around the corner”.

Microsoft’s new smartphone – produced by HTC in Taiwan – is a very aggressive product with a long list of features that gives the end-users a very versatile, easy to use, yet advanced mobile phone. We could not help but be impressed when we actually tried the smartphone – and with the price it will retail at, it is a serious competitor to the Sony Ericcson T68i, Nokia 7650, Siemens S55 and the other high-end terminals on the market. In our opinion, it is not a question of whether this product will be a success, but how big the success will be!

Almost all of the established mobile industry has made a serious effort to keep Microsoft out of their world – with the founding of Symbian they have created a solid alternative to Microsoft’s mobile strategy, in the hope that Symbian would be strong enough to keep Microsoft either out or at bay. Symbian is owned by Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Siemens, Motorola, Panasonic and Psion.

They see Microsoft as the dark side of the mobile force. One of the owners and major drivers behind Symbian is Psion. According to recent industry sources, Psion will be switching to Microsoft’s Windows CE on their top of the line handhelds in time for this Christmas! What kind of effect this will have on Symbian in the longer term is still a guessing game, but it does stand in contrast to earlier rejections to cooperation with Microsoft from the owners of Symbian.

What will decide the outcome of the battle between the high-end mobile devices? Ultimately – like we have seen on so many other new technological platforms – it will be the amount of content, services and applications available to the consumers and the ease with which consumers can access and use them. The question that then springs to mind is; who do you think will be best at ensuring this – the traditional mobile phone manufactures – or Microsoft.?

In our latest report “How to make money on Mobile Services” we have examined in detail how much non-voice ARPU the different types of mobile terminals will generate. The report does not distinguish between Symbian and Microsoft terminals – but we can ascertain that the richer devices will generate significantly more ARPU than the traditional 2G and even the new 2.5G terminals.

In the next few years, Smartphones will generate almost double the ARPU of 2.5G phones will and nearly four times the amount that 2G phones will be able to achieve. So in 2005 the ARPU for Smartphones in Western Europe will be 304 Euro pr. year, compared to 179 Euro for 2.5G and only 81 Euro for 2G mobile phones. Already by the end of 2002, Smartphones will be by far the biggest APRU performer in the mobile terminal world.

The main reasons for the much higher ARPU than the traditional terminals are of course the colour screen, more facilities and larger memory, making applications like Instant Messaging and E-mail much more attractive and easy to use.

Microsoft’s entry into the mobile world will not be totally without problems – the fact that the established manufactures have tried to keep Microsoft off their turf, has so far meant that Microsoft has only had access to the smaller manufactures and not the best known mobile brand names. This could put Microsoft in a situation where consumers and mobile operators are screaming for Microsoft devices, but can only choose from a limited choice of terminals compared to the competition.

We do not know who will come out the winner of the Symbian/Microsoft battle, but the fact that the Microsoft mobile terminals are designed to seamlessly run and interact with the same products that most customers use and know so well today on their PC’s, points towards some heavy duty competition in the cards for Symbian.
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