Changing the rules of telecom

17 Dec 2007

2007 is notable as the year of the most-anticipated product release in industry history. But Apple isn't the only one rewriting the telecom playbook. Telecom Asia editors have identified half a dozen other firms who are changing the rules of the business. Not all are from the telecom industry, and in some cases, like Google and Intel, it's not what they're doing today but what they threaten to do in the future. We also see that for all the attention paid to new tech, for the most part it's strategy, not technology, that is driving change among both carriers and vendors.

Device convergence made easy

Company:Apple Inc
HQ:Cupertino, California, USA
CEO:Steve Jobs
Impact:The iPhone lit a fire under the handset industry, not only showing the big guys how a converged device is done but creating unprecedented pre-launch excitement

The Apple iPhone is easily the biggest telecom success story of 2007, and will continue to dominate headlines in 2008 as it rolls out into more markets, including Asia. Much of that has been due to controversy over aggressive price cuts and the exclusive network lock-in, and it's nothing short of ironic that for all the noise over the iPhone, Apple's handset market share by the end of 2008 will be minimal. But in a way, all of that's beside the point. What Apple has really accomplished with the iPhone is to light a fire under the entire handset industry. Consider: feature-wise, the iPhone falls short on a number of levels - no 3G, no stereo Bluetooth, no MMS and dodgy texting, to name a few. And yet it's a triumph of design not seen since the Motorola RAZR. And even then, the RAZR's appeal was mainly physical. Where the iPhone really scores points is the user interface.

It's not just the touchscreen, mind. Apple wasn't the only company to think of stylus-free touchscreens on handsets. It's the software behind the screen that makes the iPhone a game-changer.

Not only is the UI intuitive enough to master in minutes, it's also the first UI that makes device convergence really seamless. On most other handsets, shuttling between the phone, camera and music player is a clunky experience. The iPhone UI is pleasurably smooth.

Put simply, it's everything thing that 'real' handset makers have been trying to achieve for years. And thanks to the Apple hype machine - as well as the fact that Apple knows how to sex up a gadget - the iPhone has raised the bar for every handset player in the game.Until the iPhone came along, how many handset vendors could get cellcos to pay a commission for handsets sold‾

Meet your new service provider

HQ: Espoo, Finland
CEO: Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo
Impact: Nokia to cellcos - if you can't develop killer apps, we'll do it for you

Having cemented its position as the world's biggest handset vendor, Nokia is clearly aiming to be something more.

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