PC Vendors Jostle For A Share Of The Smartphone Market

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As sales of PCs remain flat, PC vendors are keen to move into the growing smartphone market

All of the major PC makers will announce their plans to have a presence in the smartphone market by the end of 2009, but will face challenges in moving to a more fashion-conscious arena, according to analyst Gartner.

In a statement released this week the analyst said that as sales of desktops and notebooks continue to stall amid the global downturn, PC makers are increasingly looking to dip an oar into the smartphone market, which will grow by 29 percent year-on-year and reach 180 million units by 2009.

Smartphones currently account for about 14 percent of overall mobile device sales but, according to Gartner, the devices could make up around 37 percent of handset sales worldwideby 2012. Revenue from smartphone sales are set to reach £117 million by 2012, surpassing spending on mobile PCs which is set to hit £92 million in the same time frame.

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eWEEK Europe is sponsoring the Canalys Mobility Forum at Heathrow on November 17, where these issues will be debated – in particular, is Microsoft’s PC OS dominance vulnerable, and what will vendors offer in both smartphone and netbooks?

Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner, said that smartphones will increasingly represent an opportunity for most PC makers but the transition to the handsets won’t be straightforward. “PC vendors should realise that while convergence of technologies offers an opportunity to enter into the smartphone arena, the business models, go to market and positioning of products is very different from the PC market,” she said.

“PC vendors will find it difficult to simply use existing supply chains and channels to expand their presence in the smartphone market. The smartphone and notebook markets are governed by different rules when it comes to successfully marketing and selling products.”

Earlier this month, Dell CEO and founder Michael Dell ended the long running speculation over the PC maker’s smartphone ambitions, after he told a reporter of Dell’s plans to market an Android smartphone in the United States sometime early next year.

Gartner added that PC vendors’ moves into mobile have previously often focused on businesses using Windows Mobile. But moving into the wider smartphone market and competing with devices such as Apple’s iPhone, the PC vendors will face challenges such as “short life cycles, fashion design, hardware and software platform diversity”.

Gartner identified five challenges PC vendors will face when entering the smartphone market:

  • Smartphones are not “cut-down” versions of mobile PCs. Technical specifications are less important.
  • The distribution channel for mobile phones is controlled largely by mobile operators.
  • Brand and user experience are significant differentiators for mobile handsets.
  • Handset vendors are set to dominate the market for mobile internet devices (MIDs) due to their better understanding of internet usage behaviour.
  • Consumerisation opens the door to consumer smartphones in the organisation – it’s not the IT manager who makes the decision.

Dell launched its mini 3i smartphone last August in partnership with China Mobile, which uses a specially designed version of Google’s Android software called oPhone OS.


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