Mobile Broadband Device Sales Set To Soar

Michelle Maisto covers mobile devices, Android and Apple for eWEEK and is also a food writer.

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Mobile devices that can connect to the Internet are expected to grow 55 fold by 2014 according to the latest research from an industry watcher

Shipments of consumer devices that come equipped with mobile broadband connectivity will rise sharply according to a newly released report from ABI Research.

Indeed, it expects that shipments of the devices – which include e-readers, mobile digital cameras and camcorders, personal media players, personal navigation devices and mobile gaming devices – will increase 55 fold between 2008 and 2014. This would bring total shipments to 58 million in 2014.

“While demand for products in the other categories is just starting to ramp up, consumers are already snapping up connected PNDs and e-book readers in numbers, and will continue to do so,” said Jeff Orr, a senior analyst with ABI, in a statement.

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Amazon made this clear over the 2009 holiday season, announcing that its Kindle e-reader was its best-selling product, as well as that on Christmas morning, for the first time ever, it sold more digital books than traditional books.

In the report, ABI describes how in the past, many of these devices featured WiFi connectivity, but as they evolve to include additional connectivity options, vendors’ business models are needing to adjust.

“When you embed a cellular or mobile broadband modem in a device, it becomes tied to a particular operator’s service billing. That changes the device vendors’ business model dramatically,” said Orr.

The e-book connectivity model, in which the connection fee is built into the price of the device, is one that consumers, Orr said, are most comfortable with.

“In the case of a multiplayer game, for example, questions arise: paying to download the game is straightforward, but beyond that what’s the appropriate model? Monthly subscription? Annual pass? Whom does the consumer pay?” he wrote in the report. “That very unfamiliar service aspect is scary for the device vendors.”

Orr pointed to vertical industries for a partial explanation of the devices’ growth – for example, the use of personal navigation devices in taxis – and said the possible business models for delivering content to them will depend on the costs of their data plans.

“The models being used for mobile data connectivity today are poorly matched to the kinds of mobile CE devices available,” Orr said.