The year is winding down and it’s always appropriate to review what we saw in mobile gear this year to prepare our minds for what’s in store in 2009. This year was highly unusual as we saw a number of new things appear that changed the mobile tech landscape. Here’s my take on 2008.
No question the biggest mobile tech this year was netbooks. The first EEE PC appeared in late 2007 but it was this year that saw the genre explode in sales and popularity. Asus was quickly followed by all the major players who produced similar netbooks of their own: Lenovo, Dell, Acer, HP, Samsung.
Asian company MSI produced one of the most popular models in the Wind which rapidly proved that while price is important consumers would spend extra for a 6-cell battery. Battery life continues to be an important decision factor with consumers and they’re willing to pay for that even in a low price platform like netbooks.
As the netbook year unfolded the market proved that bigger devices were more desirable as the 7-inch form was mostly replaced with 9 and then 10-inch devices. This was no doubt due to the additional screen real estate for web surfing along with the bigger keyboards that could be used on the bigger netbooks.
The other mobile tech area that saw the most activity in 2008 was the smartphone area. This year saw major shifts in the top players with Apple releasing the iPhone 3G which took major market share away from the leaders. RIM released a good number of handsets which allowed them to cross the bridge into the consumer market allowing them to grab a lion’s share of the smartphone market.
Long-time major players saw their market share drop a good bit due to RIM’s and Apple’s surge. Nokia dropped significantly but battled back valiantly by adding enterprise features such as Exchange Server compatibility to try and cross over into that realm. Windows Mobile released minor version 6.1 but it didn’t play a major role in the smartphone world this year.
The popularity of the iPhone convinced many smartphone makers to produce their own touch phones and we saw a fair number of those appear. HTC released several touch phones and Nokia and RIM followed suit with varying degrees of success.
One of the biggest events in the smartphone arena this year was the release of the T-Mobile G1, the first phone to run on the Google Android platform. The phone received mixed reviews but all agreed it was a solid effort for the very first phone on a new platform. The Open Handset Alliance, the group behind the Android effort, kept adding new members this year. There are now quite a few major players and carriers behind the Android effort and they are becoming a force to be reckoned with down the road.
The Apple App Store racked up over 300 million downloads proving the validity of the concept. Virtually all the major players have now produced or are working on their own app stores for their respective platforms.
We saw a marked shift into thin and light consumer notebooks this year. Notebooks continued to outsell desktops and the major players introduced models to appeal to home users. Since notebooks are beginning to be used as home entertainment systems we saw the release of models with large HD-capable screens with advanced components like Blu-Ray drives.
The folks in Cupertino refreshed the entire MacBook line this year but it’s too early to tell if their sales are impacted by the poor economic climate. Apple advanced the usage of aluminum in the notebook chassis and emphasized how green they have become. A loud cry was heard this year for an Apple netbook but Jobs insisted they don’t know how to make a cheap computer that is worth anything.
This is our year in review, at least the major areas of interest as we see it. The netbook phenomenon will continue to grow which will begin to seriously impact the bottom line of notebook makers next year. We’ll be offering our predictions for next year soon.