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Analyst: CES 2010 will be a battle of applications

Posted: 23 Dec 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:consumer electronics? CES 2010 battle? CE application? connected device?

'Yalta Agreement'
So-called connected devices are not limited to smart phones. They include e-book readers, netbooks, smartbooks and other consumer products connected to the Internet.

This broadening product portfolio is leading many CE vendors to opt for multi-specialization strategy, rather than an "I-do-everything" model. In fact, "Many have already begun working out a 'Yalta Agreement,'" said Poitou, "especially on the component level."

Some vendors are focused on the development and production of flat panels, while letting others specialize in batteries or solar cells, and others pursue development of chips or motherboards.

Such "horizontal" collaborations are happening primarily among Japan companies, said Poitou, but they are also letting some Koreans in, and fewer cases the Taiwanese.

Will the insular mentality of doing "Yaltas" just among Japan vendors eventually hamstring the Japan consumer OEMs?

Poitou said, "Today, they see a quality advantageby leveraging each other's strength." But when the technology of the future is driven by a variety of thingsincluding software, apps and services, "keeping quality up won't be good enough" to win the next battle, he added.

Making global handsets
While consolidation among consumer electronics players is destined to happen because of too many players in the connected device market (including smart phones), Poitou predicted that 2010 may become the last opportunity at global outreach for most Japan mobile phone vendors who never succeeded outside Japan.

Traditionally, Japan handset vendorsoften CE companieshave spent too much time playing the role of subcontractor for a dominant, top-down telecom operator in the domestic market.

"We will see the end of that model," said Poitou.

With the proliferation of open-source platforms, including Symbian and Android, "Japan vendors are finding ways to leverage their R&D yen. I see renewed enthusiasm and ability for the Japan companies to go global with their mobile handsets."

One of the findings in Accenture's recent consumer electronics industry study that may surprise a few people is that "customer service continues to be a resilient part of the CE business."

Poitou said: "During the down economy, it's normal to see sales [of consumer devices] drop and their cheaper alternatives go up." But in the service sector, "consumers, instead of dropping contracts, tend to extend warranties and tend to keep their subscriptions to content," he explained. "Consumers may buy no new devices, but they keep buying apps, software and other services after their purchase of products."

Clearly, this is something every CE vendorwho may have a history of managing technologies but not customersshould be looking into, as part of a new business strategy.

"They should design their new service plans, improve their service process, and even consider acquiring companies to do that," Poitou added.

In an emerging market, consumer devices' specs matter to many consumers. While cars and houses may remain too expensive for some to purchase, higher end consumer electronics devices represent a visible measure of social status.

On the other hand, Poitou argued that consumers in advanced countries place less value nowadays on features like processing power and pixel count. More and more, he noted, the premium is on apps and services.

- Junko Yoshida
EE Times

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