From Netbooks to Netphones?
Asus, the manufacturer that carved out the worldwide netbook market, is the latest vendor to get more serious about the increasingly crowded smartphone field. Vendor announcements are popping up like wildfires in the desert as the Mobile World Congress conference gets ready to roll later this month in Barcelona.
Now Asustel has just announced a strategic partnership with GPS company Garmin to roll out several "Nuviphone" modelsthat will feature GPS functionality and a social mobility app. BusinessWeek Online has its take on the new competitive venture on its web site here. Just last week, Acer set up a press announcement at the Barcelona confab. Dell is also reportedly poised to enter the market. Just today several industry analysts speculated that Microsoft will release its own branded smartphone in the second half of this year.
I know mobility is one of the few hot areas in technology right now and smartphone sales continue to rise, but I really have to wonder if these vendors are killing the Golden Goose. The entry of Acer, Microsoft and Dell could present some opportunity for the channel, especially if these vendors want to differentiate their offerings from other similar consumer products, or perhaps leverage their existing IT product sales through the channel with smartphone technology. But with smartphone sales being chased by this thundering herd, the result may not turn out well. How many smartphone offerings do we need? How many platforms can the service providers support? Will vendors like Asus and Acer risk cannibalizing their growing netbook sales with these smartphones? As the competition grows, can price and margins do anything but collapse?
Maybe that's the idea and the only way the industry can blunt the runaway growth of Apple's iPhone. Before this is all over, you are going to see these spiffy new devices given away for free as premiums for bundled mobile phone service, ISP service, landlines and IPTV service. Good luck, Apple, keeping ahead of this vendor mob.