Panasonic and Fujitsu plan to re-enter the European handset market with the launch of new smartphones.
Panasonic, which unveiled its Eluga waterproof smartphone earlier this week, says it will widen its portfolio of European products to include tablets and has set itself ambitious sales targets. Speaking to Bloomberg, Laurent Abadie, CEO of Panasonic's European business, said that it was looking to ship 1.5 million smartphones by April 2013.
"It's the right time for us to enter that market, knowing that we used to be quite a strong brand," says Abadie. "We may introduce a wider range of smartphones with larger screens later on. The question is whether we call them smartphones or tablets."
Panasonic said the new Eluga model will be priced at around €400, excluding operator subsidies, when it becomes available from April. The Android-based handset comes with a 4.3-inch touchscreen and uses a Texas Instruments processor.
Fujitsu has been less open with its plans other than confirming discussions with European operators were underway about specific handset launches and timetables, a company spokeswoman told Reuters.
However, a report in the Financial Times suggested that Fujitsu's European handset would carry many of the advanced features included within devices for the Japanese market. Some of the more high-end smartphones incorporate biometric recognition for secure mobile payments, an alarm clock that analyses the user's sleeping condition for the best wake-up call time and 3D motion sensors.
Commenting on these moves, Dominic Sunnebo, analyst at research firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, told Reuters: "The push into the European smartphone market makes sense given the limited room for growth back in Japan. However, the challenge they will face to gain traction is huge."
Analyst Carolina Milanesi from research firm Gartner echoed this, and told Reuters: "The Western European market is saturated and very competitive. Why they would pick this market to try to find renewed growth is a mystery to me."
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