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January 05, 2016

Phones Are The Borg, And That's OK

NAV hardware makers should be a little scared about the future. We are 18 months away from the tipping point where NAV maps are pulled down to phones via EDGE/GPRS/EVDO/WiMax. I imagine the only limiting factor, and I mean only, is a teeny antenna and GPS processor that is fast and powerful enough to lock on to the satellites while staying small enough to fit in small phones.

What I know for sure is I'm not the first person to think that. Why would you buy a hand-held GPS device for $X00 when Cingular would be happy to sell you a phone that does it, has constantly updated maps and jeeps yet another battery sucking widget out of your pocket. Did I mention that that phone would already be a camera, email device, IM device, voice recorder and MP3 player? Wireless providers are in a good position. They don't typically react quickly to marketplace changes but in their inability to get out of their own way they are sitting on the ultimate platform and network. The move to high-speed wireless networks has been somewhat slow but they may now be seeing a new revenue stream; services. Not ring-tones, that's always going to be an OK source, I'm talking personalized portals, GPS mapping and Phone-to-home/office-VPN.

The unwired comm device will be the unchallenged winner in the convergence race that most players don't even see themselves in. As technologies become absorbed into new phones, their disconnected origins will die off. It may take a while before the IPod suffers its demise but it's coming. If the only thing it can do is play movies and music, a smartphone will take its place in time. The same with GPS devices. We all long for the do-it-all and it's coming.

I only wonder if Motorola, LG, Samsung, Sony Erricson, Treo, understand what power they have right now. The power to consume, combine, and converge useful, wanted technologies into their phones that actually TAKE marker share away from a stand-alone competitor. That's the point, Garmin is now competing against the new Symbian smart-phone makers for some of their customers. Apple understands this with the ROKR to some degree but I doubt they understand that there will be an eating away that after some time will be a significant dent in their sales.

I say 18 months. Windows Mobile 5, a slew of new smart-phones and customer buy-in. Once the hook is set it's the NEXT wave of devices that will bulldoze through the stand-alone device market. The next wave, well, that one will be the one that washes into your newly updated smart-home and starts to truly connect to everything.

-Lionel Felix

Posted by Lionel Felix at January 5, 2016 10:21 AM

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