Smartphone shake-out looms as hardware herd may thin

Smartphone shake-out looms as hardware herd may thin

Summary: All the tablets and smartphones are starting to look alike and software integration is everything. That fact will spell doom for a few hardware-centric smartphone manufacturers.

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HTC's sales are plunging. Nokia is betting the company on Windows Phone devices. Research in Motion can't get out of its own way. Welcome to the upcoming shakeout in the smartphone market. Any vendor that's relying primarily on hardware may want to duck.

Simply put, the wireless industry is tapped out on the hardware front. Snazzy screens. Check. Speedy chips. Check. Better battery life. Getting there. Tablets? They all kind of look alike after a while.

In other words, it's becoming increasingly difficult---if not impossible---to differentiate a mobile device based on hardware. Even software is a two horse race with Apple and Google's Android. On the Android side of the smartphone industry, the commoditization race is going to kill a few device makers.

HTC is already in a bind. Sales fell 20 percent in November. The problem: HTC is competing with Samsung and Motorola Mobility for 4G devices in the U.S. and Apple's iPhone 4S too. Without hardware differentiation HTC doesn't have much because all the Android software looks the same.

Motorola Mobility would be in the same boat, but Google will shield the company a bit. Whatever happens to Motorola will be a rounding error on Google's balance sheet. RIM and Nokia also compete on hardware. Both companies aspire to have unique software and a vibrant app ecosystem, but it's a tough road for them against Android and Apple.

Toss in the fact that the smartphone industry may just be out of ideas and you really have to start thinking about a device death pool. In the end, Samsung and Apple appear to be the only sure smartphone bets at the moment.

Perhaps the Consumer Electronics Show changes my perception in January. But for now I see some colossal train wrecks ahead. All the tablets and smartphones are starting to look alike and software integration is everything. The shelf life for the latest greatest smartphone is about 5 minutes and getting shorter by the day---especially since most of these hardware vendors lack the ecosystem and services to compete.

2012 may be the year we see some hardware-focused mobile players stumble in a big way.

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Topics: Security, Android, Google, Hardware, HTC, Mobility, Smartphones

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104 comments
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  • RE: Smartphone shake-out looms as hardware herd may thin

    And what happens when the only major threat to Apple loses its 'clone wars'?
    dheady@...
    • RE: Smartphone shake-out looms as hardware herd may thin

      @dheady@...
      Keep dreaming
      kirovs@...
      • Some of patents are blatantly infringed, the judge confirmed this

        @kirovs@... ... so the dreams could only be about how Samsung all of sudden will get pass with this IP theft.
        dderss
      • RE: Smartphone shake-out looms as hardware herd may thin

        @dderss

        Or that Apple's patents gets legally invalidated, in effect revealing they were only claiming IP theft, when they stole it in the first place.
        WinTard
      • RE: Smartphone shake-out looms as hardware herd may thin

        @WinTard <br><br>Or put another way, they tried to copyright things in the public domain. You CANNOT copyright basic designs (4-door car, stool, tablet design based on a magazine or book, a book (bunch of sheets of paper with a cover), an 8-ounce cup).
        Dodgson1832
      • @wintard

        Or Apple's IP claims are fully validated. The naive will think the patents cover ideas or are public domain when they actually cover methods.

        Chances are, Apple will win about 50% of the claims and loose about 50%.
        Bruizer
      • RE: Smartphone shake-out looms as hardware herd may thin

        @Wintard What will you do when Apple's claims against Samsung are upheld?
        athynz
      • And Pete, what will you iPhone fans do...

        @Pete "athynz" Athens@... ...if Apple is successful at suing everyone else out of business? No matter how much you love your iPhone, do you really want to see a market with no competition and no other options?
        cornpie
      • I don't think Apple is trying to do so...

        @cornpie... "IF" I did I would be against such an action. Still like IBM, MS and even Intel Apple has to walk the line when it comes to any kind of monopoly illegal actions and this would draw the attention of the government unwanted attention if they were trying to do so. So again I doubt it.

        Pagan jim
        James Quinn
    • RE: Smartphone shake-out looms as hardware herd may thin

      @dheady@... Dont you mean when the masses learn that apple sucks.
      rparker009
      • RE: Smartphone shake-out looms as hardware herd may thin

        @rparker009 While I disagree with people like Wintard he at least brings relevant facts and does not needlessly troll like you do. In other words suck it rparker009.
        athynz
      • RE: Smartphone shake-out looms as hardware herd may thin

        @rparker009 While I disagree with people like Wintard he at least brings relevant facts and does not needlessly troll like you do. In other words suck it rparker009.
        athynz
      • Get a life dude.

        @rparker009 Troll somewhere else. Judging by the acceptance of the iPad and iPhone, it doesn't appear that the "masses" think Apple sucks.
        GeoffMichael
      • RE: Smartphone shake-out looms as hardware herd may thin

        @rparker009 Even the fandroids should realize that Apple does not suck. They're just in denial.
        I, myself, like Apple products and like the competition as well. As such, I won't claim, "Android sucks."
        Yuniverse
  • RE: Smartphone shake-out looms as hardware herd may thin

    "Without hardware differentiation HTC doesn???t have much because all the Android software looks the same."

    Really, Larry? Last time I checked, Android's problem was fragmentation, not just of OS version but every vendor has a different core look. HTC has Sense, Motorola has Blur, etc. Apple's mobile devices all look the same. iOS has the same look time and time again.
    Crion629
    • RE: Smartphone shake-out looms as hardware herd may thin

      @Crion629 Larry should not have singled out Android, without pointing out that it is even worse for the OEMs that make Wp7 phones. These OEMs have little control over a product they must support. I think after Barnes and Nobel successfully gets the patents nullified, many OEMs will either get payments from Microsoft, or completely drop their Wp line of products.
      Rick_Kl
      • RE: Smartphone shake-out looms as hardware herd may thin

        @Rick_Kl I should have rewarded that. My point is all the android devices all sort of rhyme now. Am I going to buy an HTC handset for HTC Sense. Umm no. Motorola's Blur...Not. In a few years, we're all running around with $99 Pantech and ZTE 4G devices.
        Larry Dignan
      • Too bad you only see what you want to see

        @Rick_Kl <br>I guess you didn't notice the moment Samsung produced WP7 models, they overtook Apple as the top phone manufacturer.<br><br>I wonder why? ;)
        William Farrel
      • RE: Smartphone shake-out looms as hardware herd may thin

        @Rick_Kl

        IF the patents are nullified (and I seriously think we need to rethink how software patents are handed out... I mean, the lifespan of a device is 3 years at most so you should not get a patent that lasts more than 3 years. If you haven't come up with something new by that point you have a crappy product. Apple is trying to do the same thing with their patent litigation and if you remember IE6.... I really don't want that happening again) then I think they still will sell WP7 devices. To not do so will leave them in the cold if it does take off and they need some sort of leverage against Google.
        Dodgson1832
      • RE: Smartphone shake-out looms as hardware herd may thin

        @Rick_Kl

        I am betting that Barnes and Noble will have zero chance at that. There are bigger manufacturers who are paying Microsoft. Nobody wants to be called a thief. B&N are going to pay, and they will now probably pay a lot more, silly buggers.
        sjaak327