OR IS IT TOO EARLY TO ASK?
DID THE MOBILE WIN THE CONVERGENCE WAR?
MOBILES HAVE REPLACED A HOST OF DEVICES AT THE USER END OVER TIME. BUT CAN IT REALLY REPLACE THE REST OF THEM FOR GOOD?
Virat Bahri & Akhilesh Shukla
Issue Date - 01/04/2011
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Of all the marvels in the history of technology, the mobile seems to beat the rest by miles in its fairly short life span so far; not only because of the communication revolution it began, but also because of the multiple evolutions it subsequently went through. And it also had the good fortune that marketers on the field as well as R&D teams in the offices picked its potential very fast. The former ensured its widespread reach. Consider India itself, where the penetration of the mobile is hovering around 60%, while PC penetration was still around 38% till last year. And the latter ensured that the mobile metamorphosed into being a one stop device that took up numerous functions that were performed by other devices over time – communication, music, media, scheduler, clock, gaming, e-mail, internet, TV, radio, camera, navigator, projector, presentations, video conferencing – the list is only growing. Ajay Sharma, Country Head, HTC India, comments to TN, “There is currently no device that can substitute smart phones or handsets, and they will therefore continue to dominate in the near future.”
Gartner reported that the worldwide handset market grew by 31.8% in 2010 from 2009, while smart phones sale jumped by 72.1 % from 2009. In the year 2010 worldwide sale of handset were reported to 1.6 billion units. Smart phones accounted for 19 % of the total sale. With the launch of 3G and Wimax in India and China in devices smart phones have a long way to go. It would seem a given that the smartphone seems to be the ultimate winner in the 'technology convergence' war, and the fruition of the 'black box' theory that has been prevalent since so many years – that all technologies would ultimately converge into one device or black box. This view does have a lot of support. When conversing with TN, Roger Kay, Founder & President, Endpoint Technologies, comments, “Ultimately, a phone-sized box, whether it is a phone or not, will drive the rest of a user's peripherals, items such as large display, comfortable keyboard, ergonomic mouse, and I/O hub.” Marketing gurus Al & Laura Ries have actually decried the phenomenon in one of their columns, where they say, “Convergence captures the imagination, but divergence captures the market. Convergence requires compromise and divergence satisfies the evolving needs of different market segments.” They feel that the billions spent on devices like smart phones are a “tragic waste”, and companies should be doing more of divergence from the marketing standpoint.
In effect, companies seem to believe that people will want the mobile as the centre of their universe, considering how they keep packaging newer and newer features into their phones. But not everyone is sold on the idea. Sunil Dutt, President and General Manager, PSG, HP India, counters, “No matter how good a mobile phone is, the experience of a small screen for information, media, entertainment & internet is like you would get in a laptop or even a computer.” The form factor, in fact, is the most critical drawback for the mobile phone's case, wherein the question of richness of user experience comes to play. Look at Sony for instance, which recently launched its Android Gingerbread Xperia Play phone in India, with Playstation type controls and the ability to play Playstation games. The question that comes to a user's mind is – should he/she go for this phone that costs some Rs.35,000 or an actual PS3, which costs around Rs.20,000 or so and boasts of a much richer experience? From that perspective, it's not the end game for advertisers either so far, since they are still find attracting users harder on mobiles compared to traditional media. Moreover, usage of media through mobile will remain restricted, a view supported by Enders Research, which predicts that Enders Analysis predicts that mobile usage will only account for around 28% of time spent online by 2015 in a mature market like UK, where 80% of mobiles will be internet ready till that time. The report is also not very optimistic on the prospects of m-commerce, especially for high priced internet products.
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