Apple is ‘established’ as mobile market leader, says analyst


9 Jun 2009

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Apple is not only an established maker of mobile phones, a Gartner analyst has told siliconrepublic.com, but it has applied the wisdom of its decades making computers not to make the same mistakes of competitors – making hardware for hardware’s sake.

Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi, who attended yesterday’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco and whose firm recently opened an office in Dublin, told siliconrepublic.com that there were two underlying themes that emerged from yesterday’s event.

"The price adjustments in the MacBook Pro range and the new iPhone devices reflect a more competitive and harsher environment today because of the global economy.

"Secondly, Apple’s strategy continues o deliver more value from usability around the hardware and this transcends the entire line from the iPod touch to the MacBook Pro," Milanesi said.

Yesterday Apple announced a new lower-priced 15-inch MacBook Pro starting at US$1699 with up to seven hours of battery life, demonstrated the forthcoming OS X Snow Leopard and launched the iPhone 3G S. The new iPhone comes with a 3-megapixel autofocus camera, video-recording and the ability to send multimedia text messages plus cut-and-paste text.

In addition, Apple announced the new OS 3.0 firmware, which comes with over 100 new features including Spotlight search, landscape keyboard and hands-free voice control. The company also announced a deal to put TomTom satnav technology on iPhones.

"The key trend I spotted is that Apple in the summer of 2009 is focused heavily on its software and creating an ecosystem that provides a much richer user experience for customers.

"Just two years in, Apple is now an established mobile device manufacturer and you can say it helped to reorient the smart phone industry. Its sales are at respectable volumes, but it can claim to have differentiated itself remarkably. Unlike many mobile manufacturers who are pushing out hardware for the sake of hardware, the company has worked hard to have the software, the hardware, the content and the ecosystem."

Milanesi said that the trend by manufacturers to set up their own mobile app stores – such as Nokia with Ovi and Sony Ericsson with PlayNow – was inspired by Apple.

She said that while Apple’s latest iPhone has a 3-megapixel camera and competing manufacturers are pushing out mobiles with 5-megapixel up to 12-megapixel cameras, they are missing the key point that without the right software and content ecosystem, there’s not a lot users can do with this.

"What you do from a software perspective – as Apple has done – is much more important and will deliver a better result. Yes, a lot of consumers are drawn to the higher megapixel devices and judge them the way they would a normal camera, but how on earth would you send an MMS from one of these devices with all those megapixels?"

Milenesi said the difference with Apple is that it never rushed with new technologies, rather on what delivered real value to end-users. "What makes the difference is the overall user experience. Apple is not trying to compete with the Nokia of tomorrow, but is trying to create the best phone its customers will use."

Before Monday’s WWDC keynote, there had been a lot of speculation that Apple would enter the netbook business, but Milanesi is scornful of such a move.

"The netbook business is still very immature. If you have a very good smartphone device and a very good laptop range, fitting something in between the two is not clever.

"In the PC business, it is all about competition. A netbook might make sense for a manufacturer that doesn’t have enough of an interesting smartphone offering but wants to be sexy and follow the hype. The laptop business has issues.

"Why would you want to bring in something that sits awkwardly in the middle? On one hand, yes, the mobile operators are really keen on netbooks and low-priced notebooks. But if you think about what the iPhone can do, it pretty much can compete with a netbook, and in terms of the new generation of mobile internet devices (MIDs), that is what the iPhone is already.

"Right now, it wouldn’t be the right time to go about and end up competing with yourself," Milanesi concluded.

She described the buzz in each room when new products were announced at the WWDC as very positive.

"The only time there was disappointment was when people were told the devices weren’t available straightaway – they expected them straightaway – but that they’d have to wait two weeks," she said.

By John Kennedy 

Pictured: the Apple iPhone 3GS

Image courtesy of Apple