Worldwide markets for what I collectively call small, smart mobile devices appear to be reaching a plateau. The progression of the high end smart phone market has shown signs of taking this direction over the last year and a half. Most recently, IDC’s report on first calendar quarter 2014 worldwide sales of tablets showed the same trend.
In my opinion, the tactic likely to be the most popular for competitors in, at least, the smart phone market, will be to cannibalize each others customers in an effort to continue to increase share of the market.
Consumers will continue to play the dominant role in purchase decisions. Price discounting should become prevalent. Trade-in offers will play their role, which will contribute to higher costs for channel partners and manufacturers.
A light in all of this darkness will be any new technological feature, well received by the public, which a competitor will be able to leverage to at least maintain price, if not margin. Cortana, the new “personal assistant” Microsoft® has announced for Windows Phone 8.1, looks to be this type of factor.
As I wrote earlier in this blog, there are many reasons for further potential in current smart phone technology around the notion of speech-to-computing features. To quickly restate my position, by definition, smart phones are mobile devices. For one reason, or another, consumers on the go cannot, and should not, be using screen or keyboard input devices to perform computing procedures. Cortana has received across-the-board positive review from popular press. This product has all of the features required to provide consumers with a voice activated method of processing computing tasks.
When technology increases the usefulness of a device like a smart phone, then manufactures have the tool needed to either justify holding a market price, or even increasing it. It doesn’t make sense for Microsoft to expect a price increase for its own handsets built on the Windows Phone 8.1 O/S once Cortana is released. But it does make sense to expect Microsoft to gain market share from competitors at the high end of the market for this new feature.
Disclaimer: I’m long Microsoft
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