Whose profile is rising: Embedded devices
Building on the momentum created at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year, the embedded device arena once again took the spotlight at Mobile World Congress. Most of the discussions and announcements seemed to gravitate toward the obstacles that need to be overcome and how the industry can simplify this space for non-traditional wireless players.
The GSMA led the way with its first release of an embedded mobile guidelines handbook geared to non-traditional device makers that want to incorporate wireless into their products. The goal of the handbook is to simplify module design and integration, facilitate and speed up the process of embedded module and device certification, reduce industry fragmentation, increase known volumes and economies of scale and bring down upfront design costs.
Likewise, Deutsche Telekom launched an International Competence Center to drive M2M innovation. The carrier said the center will focus on M2M products and services in nine different market segments: transportation, vehicle telematics, smart metering/smart grid, consumer electronics, security, retail and commerce, industrial automation monitoring and control, healthcare and public sector and infrastructure.
Accenture also released the results of an in-depth study on embedded that pinpointed problem areas. In its report, Accenture found that 63 percent of companies interested in embedded wireless say the biggest hurdle to success is finding the right business model for launching a solution. Survey participants said wireless operators need to tailor pricing plans to appeal to users with multiple devices. In addition, business users included interoperability and standards issues as problem areas: 53 percent of corporations surveyed said standards choices (whether to embed HSPA or CDMA) were impeding their progress, and 52 percent said interoperability across networks was an obstacle.
In an interview with FierceWireless, Miguel Myhrer, a partner in Accenture's Communications and High Tech Practice, said consumer-oriented devices will lead the charge in embedded wireless, and that many consumers are ready to buy connected laptops and ereaders. He added that netbooks likely will be the next big device to be added to the wireless ecosystem.
Whose profile is falling? Feature phones
Just a few years ago, news from Mobile World Congress was dominated by manufacturers releasing their latest feature phones. Fast-forward two years and the news of this year's MWC is dominated by smartphones, most of which feature Google's Android operating system. What exactly constitutes a feature phone vs. a smartphone? Most in the industry define a smartphone as a device with an operating system.
If a manufacturer did happen to introduce a feature phone at MWC, it garnered little news coverage and was quickly overshadowed by the smartphone devices. Here's a slideshow of the devices that Fierce found particularly interesting at MWC. (Note that only one device in the lineup is not a smartphone.)
This trend isn't all that surprising, considering that research firms have been reporting skyrocketing sales of smartphones. In its second-quarter survey (comprising 150,000 respondents), research firm NPD found that smartphones accounted for 28 percent of all handset sales in the United States in the quarter--a whopping 47 percent increase in the category's share since the same period last year.
Nevertheless, NPD also found that feature phones (defined by the firm as not having an operating system--presumably an open one like BlackBerry or Windows Mobile) still command the lion's share of the U.S. cell phone marketplace. NPD found feature phones comprised 72 percent of the overall U.S. market in the second quarter, down 5 percent from the year-ago quarter.