At the turn of the 21st century, the term "smartphone" wasn't used. Instead, some were talking about communicators, converged mobile devices, connected digital assistants, ultra mobile computers, and the such. Inside of Nokia, I heard the term "personal trusted device" a number of times, but that didn't stick. In some meetings, we didn't always know what to call the gadgets, but we knew those things were coming.
When it came to predicting the companies which would lead this new market, the names were obvious: there was Nokia, Palm, Sharp, Motorola, Microsoft, Ericsson, Research in Motion, perhaps even HP, Compaq, DELL, or Psion. And there was also Sony, the company which had a track record of making things small and mobile.
It's been a dynamic dozen years since then, and things aren't quite like we expected. Many of the companies predicted to lead, left. And most of the others have slivers rather than thick, chunky slices of market share.
But the surprise now is the one company that is not a surprise: Sony. According to IDC, Sony was the world's number four global vendor of smartphones last quarter, having shipped 9.8 million units giving them 4.5% share, right behind #3 Huawei. Sony's volumes were up 57% year-on-year, outgrowing the market which was up 36%. In addition, Sony outgrew Apple, ZTE, and most other vendors.
I must say that we are not impressed enough with Sony, and perhaps Sony would like to keep it that way for now, being the tall, quiet, and handsome type. You know: suave, clever, secretive, and a bit insidious.
Many would have given Sony Ericsson and Sony Mobile up for dead not long ago. Just another discarded corpse in the vicious smartphone battle. But it looks like Sony is alive and rather well. If Sony does die as a smartphone vendor, it won't be today, but rather, they will die another day.
To the T with Sony. Sony Mobile. Ignore them at your own risk.
For those looking to network with Chinese mobile players and understand the market: the kind producers of the Global Mobile Internet Conference 2013 and the extended "G-Trip" contacted me to share a 25% discount code with any readers who might wish to attend. You can register your attendance at http://beijing.thegmic.com/register/ and paste in the following code into the "discount code" section: GMIC-VQ9596MT
GWIC. Be there. And see see Tiananmen Square.