Who's next in line to suffer same fate as Nokia?
The business model of the TV industry is ripe for disruption. Hi-tech companies such as Google, Apple, Intel and Microsoft, are all trying to break into the global TV market
A Nokia Lumia 620 Windows smartphone sits on display inside an O2 store in Manchester. Photograph: Paul Thomas/Bloomberg
Finnish national pride was dented last week with the acquisition of Nokia’s phone business by Microsoft. Nokia was a key player in the development of GSM cellular phone technology. The world’s first commercial GSM call was placed over a Nokia network in July 1991.
At the start of 2007, Nokia dominated the global cell phone market with an astonishing 61 per cent market share. But that same January, Steve Jobs unexpectedly announced that Apple was launching a new phone, a new music player and a new internet access gadget.
But rather than three separate new products, they were combined together into just a single device: the iPhone. Instead of Nokia-stye finicky keypad buttons, the iPhone had a novel touch-sensitive screen on which a keyboard could be displayed only as and when necessary. By April 2011, Apple was shipping as many phones as Nokia. In 2012, Nokia’s global market share had dropped to about 10 per cent.
The introduction of the smartphone by Apple fatally damaged Nokia’s prime global position. Today, what are the potential next wave of smart devices, which could disrupt established market leaders?
Smart spectacles perhaps? Earlier this year, Google Glass was released for testing and public evaluation. A light and flexible frame includes an optical head-mounted display. The display “floats” in front of the visual perspective of the wearer, overlaying the field of view with information such as time, directions, results of searches and queries, and so on. Glass can also snap photos and record videos. Glass is undoubtedly a status symbol and fashion icon – as indeed was the iPhone at its launch – for some digerati. But it is equally viewed with suspicion by others as a gimmick and impractical.
How about a smartwatch then? Sony launched its SmartWatch-2 last June and Samsung launched its Galaxy Gear just last Wednesday (September 4th). Google, Apple and Microsoft are all working on their various prospective offerings, concurrently with some small independent vendors such as Kreyos, Omate and Pebble.
As well as being a time piece, a smartwatch will run apps, track location, and may monitor physical activity (akin to a pedometer). The Gear includes a credible camera. Its microphone and speakers are an accessory for a Samsung phone in your pocket, so that you can talk – Dick Tracy- like – to your wrist. No doubt smart watches will also rapidly become digital status symbols. Detractors will argue that limited battery capacity (the Galaxy Gear needs recharging every day) and fragility (just how rugged do you expect your watch to be?) may render early smartwatches quixotic.
Well, how about a smart TV? The definition of what comprises a smart TV is broad – anything beyond the traditional (“dumb”) TV. Smart TVs have been around for some time – I was bemused to find an internet post referring to a November 1990 issue of Popular Science on the topic. As I noted in this column on July 29th last, the business model of the TV industry is ripe for disruption. Hi-tech companies such as Google, Apple, Intel and Microsoft are all trying to break into the global TV market with innovative devices to grasp control of the domestic living room, and indeed the entire electronic home.