Wednesday, July 17, 2013

NEC's Minolta Moment. NEC Casio to leave the smartphone business. No surprises here.


I've been predicting for a while that many current second-tier handset vendors will pick up and leave the business over the coming years. Last week I wrote about the coming "Minolta Moments" in the smartphone industry: big names leaving the business just like Konica Minolta left the camera business due to shrinking market share and profitability.

And here we go: today NEC announced its departure from the smartphone business, and likely the handset business in general.

With minuscule market share and partnership prospects gone, it was time for NEC to throw in the towel. A solid brand name, great technical pedigree, but only a tiny sliver of global market share.

NEC was once an industry leader. It had one of the first clamshells on the market, was among the first to make camera phones, and always had some of the most interesting device form factors in the pipeline. Back at their peak, in the mid-'90s, NEC mobile was a top-five global player, and a top-three vendor in the United States and APAC, and the dominant vendor in Japan with 30% market share.

Expect more Minolta Moments during the coming quarters in the smartphone business. Device ASPs are coming down along with margins, the importance of innovation is fading, and there will be few winners in this game of follow the leader.

Good bye NEC Casio Mobile Communications. You will be remembered as the leader you once were. Now who's next?

NEC Casio Mobile Communications to fold. Too bad.

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