Friday, September 30, 2011

More history lessons! The long trail. And some weekend homework.

When I had a job with a major handset vendor reporting on market conditions and disruptions, market shares and market movements, I often liked to remind the audience of what the market looked like going back five, 10, or 15 years. This acted as a reminder just how much things can change over time.

Right now I'm looking at some market stats I have from 1994, which is when the handset market was just taking off in earnest. That year around 27 million handsets were sold globally. To put that in perspective, significantly more handsets were sold last week. And considering that last quarter something like 350 million to 375 million handsets were shipped, 27 million is almost a rounding error.

Needless to say, the market of 1994 looked a lot different than it does today. Motorola was the dominant global player with more than 1/3 of the global market, followed by a distant Nokia and an even more distant Ericsson. And at least four of the top-ten vendors were Japanese (NEC, Panasonic, Mitsubishi, Oki).

Only five years later, in 1999, Nokia became the dominant global handset vendor and was also running away with the U.S. market. For those analysts and journalists who write that Nokia has never been strong in the U.S. market, consider 10 years ago Nokia had 40%, about three times the number two at the time, Motorola. (Those were the grand pre-Cingular AT&T Wireless TDMA days.)

So now it's time to think different. Who will be the global handset market leaders in five years from now? In 10 years? Will it be Apple or Samsung? Amazon or ZTE? Nintendo or Nokia? Perhaps Lenovo or Micromax or Foxconn?

It's not too risky to guess that it will look very different than it does now. And new business models, new platforms, and new architectures will alter the landscape more than we can imagine.

Global Handset Market Shares, 2016 (please fill in the blanks):

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