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CeBIT 2006. “Honey, we just cloned a RAZR, what should we do next?” or tendencies of mobile terminals.
CeBIT has been the center of attention for those who wanted to see how computer and telecommunication technologies will develop within the next year. Companies from all over the globe came to Hanover in order not only to show their products that will be released in the nearest months, but also prototypes, that are targeted for far perspective. When we had slow network development and the world was more conservative, there was a reason for such events. It was sort of a private club, where professionals were able to talk to each other, see not only what was shown in the booths, but get access to “secret” rooms as well. From the moment when Internet entered most houses in Europe, the spread speed of information became almost momentum. See it four yourself, information from product’s presentation appears on the internet with only couple of hours delay, and articles that include product’s analysis and sometimes even full review of it – within couple of days. This was an unreal time term for 1980s. The information is distributed in a different way, and rather often you should not be at the place to feel and see what the event is all about (unfortunately for now you cannot “touch” things). This changed consumer’s POV, who began to read closely about the products he is choosing from, he reads the gossips about future products and possible changes in price policy changes of companies. This is a big headache for marketologists of all companies. On the other hand, communication with consumer is happening on a different level, this partly solves the case for PR-agencies, the main goal now is to create an interesting product.
The role of world exhibitions is going downwards when the conditions are as they are now, and this was successfully proven by this year’s CeBIT. On the whole CeBIT became a regional exhibition targeted only at German citizens, people from Hanover and cities nearby to be precise. Every year we’ve seen that a lot of manufacturers were ignoring CeBIT and holding off their announcements for some better day. At first it were computer companies, later on telecommunication sector joined the rally. Dangerous tendency wasn’t that obvious due to overwhelming activity of Asian manufacturers, they were compensating their late arrival at European market with great amount of announcements. This year the exhibition hit the critical point, it just became uninteresting. If we talk about mobile phones, the only company that held the Ace in its pocket, and was ready to announce new products was BenQ-Mobile. Well, that’s quite logical, since German market is what Siemens had left as legacy, it is its home, this is where the company has the strongest position. However, it will be just to say that all products announced at CeBIT were already discussed before the official presentation, every reason for holding up the interest is important to hold the slippery of sales. This includes “accidental” leaks. Samsung announced couple of products, including its flagship, not because of the particular event, but because of its own uncertainty. The company could not decide which product should become the flagship for whole 4 months, and this caused active correspondence within the company itself. Main wave of announcements hit 3GSM Congress, and the reason for that is because this event is particularly specialized in mobile telecommunications. The exhibition was slowly but steadily taking away professional auditory from CeBIT, since it was held earlier, and this very professional auditory was its main target. You could not see a big amount of young people wandering around the Congress. Development of online media that are covering the exhibition is not influencing the fact that companies and their representatives gather at this event and speak about the products and technologies. For mobile phone market it’s 3GSM Congress what’s considered as central event of the year, and this has been so for 3 years already. Basically, you can say “rest in peace” to CeBIT starting from next year in case you are interested in mobile phone, none of the serious manufacturers is planning to attend this exhibition, or make any serious announcements. Most journalists were complaining that what has been shown on the exhibition, could have been spotted on the internet, or some other way before, the products are not so interesting because they are already known about. The overall mood was like one single point: going to CeBIT next year does not look reasonable. I shall say goodbye to CeBIT at this point and move on to interesting tendencies spotted on recent exhibitions.
Very likely there hasn’t been any other mobile phone besides Motorola V3 RAZR that had big impact on the market. One month before the official announcement of V3 RAZR (it was in summer 2004) we placed an unpretentious message on our forum which was something like this: “after 26 days the idea of clamshell phone will be reloaded”. After the review and official announcement it was interesting to follow reaction of our readers. Almost everyone agreed that this model was original and interesting, however most agreed that it wasn’t something revolutionary, it did not change the way we think about clamshell phones, our associations. Motorola’s competitors had their own vision on this matter. The consumers proven that this vision was true, after they spent their euros on brand new RAZR, pushing it to best selling mobile phone in Europe position (data provided by Motorola at 3GSM 2006). Saying that Motorola V3 was a successful product means saying nothing at all.
It took time before competitors were ready to demonstrate their counter-attack. We should not forget that it takes quite a while to develop mobile terminal. The first question was who will be the next to show its vision of “slim” phone, now it’s time for the final one “who will be the last one?”. Just year before at 3GSM Congress 2005 and CeBIT 2005 we seen only the beginning (as it turned out later) of giant wave of RAZR clones. This year’s CeBIT caused critical point of RAZR-mania, manufacturers were clashing for every 1/10 of millimeters in thickness.
You should not that it was not always only about replicating Motorola’s product with maximal accuracy. A lot of models were similar to Motorola’s hit only in terms of thickness, however there were those who were copying everything without any feeling of vain (except for crossing the line, which would cause immediate notice of appointment). Motorola was forced to make a strong decision: from now on models will be announced simultaneously with their release on the market (similar to what Apple is doing with iPod), so the competitors would not have enough time to copy the design of new products.
At CeBIT 2006 we seen “the thinnest phones in the world”, the clash between manufacturers was really huge, like we said earlier, even 1/10 of millimeter was at stake. VK Mobile came out victorious with its models VK2000/VK202, since their thickness was 8.8 mm, which is by 0.1mm thinner than Samsung Z150. Although Z150 remains the thinnest… UMTS terminal. In the nearest future Samsung will release its version of SLVR, with 6.9mm thickness, the war is not over yet. LG was slightly behind the “leaders” with its model LG KG320, the thickness was 9mm. Right after the exhibition closed its doors, KTFT announced even thinner model for Korean market, EV-K100, its thickness is only 7.9 mm.
VK Mobile can be highlighted as the company that made most efforts in replicating RAZR. All of its new models were slim, and similar to Motorola’s analogues in this or that way. VK200 is a slightly scaled down (dimensions – 105x48x11 mm, 66grams) clone of Motorola L7. Models are so similar to each other, that at first visitors were rather dazzled, it seemed that VK Mobile put Motorola’s model for comparison. VK 4000 – is an external copy of Samsung D500, meanwhile VK 4500 tends to look more like a RAZR in terms of keyboard design and case’s thickness.
Samsung presented “the slimmest slider”, D870. It will be just to say that the only similarity with RAZR in this case is small thickness.
Sharp has finally shown its vision of RAZR, by announcing model 770SH. Because of straight line domination and small monochromic external display when the phone is closed it reminds more of “slim” phones from Panasonic, instead of RAZR, but once you open the phone, you will see the metal plate with keyboard, which sets everything back at its place. The model is not the thinnest, that’s for sure, its dimensions are 101x49.9x17.1, weight is 110 grams. It is interesting because of UMTS, GPRS (EDGE is not supported) support, there’s Bluetooth and slot for microSD memory cards, qualitative 2.2” QVGA-display (it is made by Mobile Advanced Super-V LCD technology, which is actively promoted by Sharp).
Candybar TS608 from Toshiba (TS30 – Asian edition of this model) joins the “slim solution” rally. Model’s dimensions – 110.5x46.9x9.9 mm, weight - 93 grams. Among other functions there’s Bluetooth, mp3 player, slot for microSD memory cards, 1.3mpx camera. The mode is expected to go for sale in May.
Nec decided to show its model called e959, unlike previous slim model (e949), the keyboard is now more similar to RAZR’s.
Chinese company TCL had another clone of Motorola L7 SLVR in its booth. The model is targeted for Chinese market, and there’s nothing else that we were able to find out about it.
Let us remind you that slim models were presented by Sagem as well, we wrote about it in our coverage from the exhibition.
Another slim slider was featured by Grundig – on top of it, X300 has a 3 Mpix auto-focus camera module embedded.
It’s interesting, that now all manufacturers have managed to make public their “slim solutions” – of the leading players on the market, such models are not presented in Sony Ericsson’s and Nokia’s line-ups. Models Sony Ericsson M600, W950 and Nokia 8800 can be nominally referred to slim ones, although they were announced as neither thin handsets, nor targeted at the mass market in the first place, what is more these don’t bear much of similarities to RAZR. Not so long ago Nokia has undergone major shake-ups in the design department – it got it structure and head manager changed. It’s for sure, that Nokia is currently developing a product line of “slim and stylish” handsets – so the question is, when these models are going to be released. In other words, who is going to be the last in this race?
With the advent of V3 RAZR, not only a standard clamshell’s appearance was revised, but outlook of all handsets, residing in other form-factor categories as well. It won’t be long before thick devices become a thing of the past – as of today, the evident infatuation for “slim” handsets reminds of the competition among the manufacturers in reducing measurements of phones from clumsy “bricks” to what we can see at present. The experience, earned in those times implies that downsizing has certain limits, which not a single handset would exceed, since using too small device causes way more problems. The manufacturers realized that simple truth back then and eventually will come to this conclusion one more time, after they understand that a phone of 5 mm thickness is unclaimed on the mass market.
One of the CeBIT 2006 hot topics is, no doubt, mobile television. Many companies took the chance to demonstrate devices of their own products at the exhibition. To tell the truth, mobile operators pin all their hopes on this technology, as according to them it’s going to become a major source of income.
Rivalry between various incompatible standards is frequently one of the insuperable obstacles on the path of developing a new solution. One of the most obvious examples one can see in the modern world is confrontation between two standards: Blue-Ray and HD-DVD. At first many prospective buyers are delaying the purchase in order to wait a bit and see how it turns out. But the full-scaled competition of several technologies is currently observed on the market of mobile TV.
There are far more ways of delivering a vivid picture, streamed in real time mode, to small screens of mobile phones that you can imagine. Let’s take closer loot at all this variety. Obviously, the simplest way to make a handset work as a television set is to integrate an analog television receiver into a phone. And naturally, this approach is applied by several companies with such names as Sharp and currently being a minor player on this market, GIGABYTE. On the other hand it’s widely known that analog transmissions are not intended for using on portable devices, so an external antenna becomes a very vital detail, nonetheless no one will guarantee fair reception quality even in this case. Power consumption – that’s what everything is about. Stated battery life of Sharp 905SH in TV mode is from 0,5 to 1 hour. In other words it is enough to cover only the first half if we want to watch a football match, for example. Profit, gained by mobile operators in this case is rather obscure, as the operator doesn’t provide content here.
The other method is applying IP (IPTV) technology – it can be GPRG, UMTS, HSDPA or mobile MiMAX, there is not core difference which one to use. It’s an easy way as well, which doesn’t require any additional expenses on infrastructure creation, though frequencies are not properly distributed in case, what involves extra traffic and network overload. If a network like this includes only a dozen of users, any further questions issues are excluded at once, however when 10-15 thousands of people will tear into the network, willing to watch the opening ceremony of the Olympic games, or, say Football World Cup matches? In these cases nobody can provide stable operation of any system – just remember what happens with GPRS during peak hours. Though the market features numerous IPTV solutions, opened both for any company and exclusively developed for several operators.
One more way to materialize the concept is modification based off the existing 3G-infrastructure, which would use dormant part of the capacity. We are talking here about Multimedia Broadcast and Multicast Service (MBMS), which is included in the current set of 3G standards and allows its users to considerably reduce incoming traffic. At this licensing of additional frequencies is required. Orange mobile operator is going to apply TDtv by IPWireless in the middle of this year as a trial attempt of using this service.
Space television is also possible on mobile phones even without using an external receiver. In South Korea this method has already been in exploitation for quite a while, originally launched as S-DMB (Satellite Digital Multimedia Broadcasting) service. Nevertheless even the Korean ever-growing market could give only 1.5% of infiltration – it’s doubtful that this technology will become a hit outside this country.
And finally, the last but not the least – the way of ground-based digital broadcasting, which can be carried out only with the help of extra licensed frequencies. This field is occupied with the following contending standards: T-DMB (Terrestrial Digital Multimedia Broadcasting) – available in South Korea, though commercial launch in Germany is scheduled for the period right before World Cup start. MediaFLO – Qualcomm’s technology, covering the widest audience in the US. DVB-H – the most promising standard in Europe, supported by the majority of manufacturers.
Having looked into various technologies, we are getting straight down to the corresponding handsets’ manufacturers. And we are beginning with Samsung and LG – it may sound hilarious, though these two claiming the title of “the only company world-over, supporting all types of mobile television without exception”. I should admit that is partly true, as the manufacturers provide handsets for all invented standards.
Model Samsung SCH-360 is primarily targeted at the Korean market – in fact it is nothing else but Samsung D600 with a built-in S-DMB receiver. There is also a video-out for better experience of watching TV broadcasts.
Another model with an embedded S-DMB receiver is SCH-B340 – pretending to being “the slimmest handset in the world with S-DMB”, its thickness measures 17.3 mm.
The first device world-over, supporting both S-DMB and T-DMB at once is SPH-B4100 – the same design is applied to a handset, featuring MediaFLO, yet there is no word on its index.
One more “first world-over” device is a gamephone with incorporated S-DMB, namely SPH-B3200.
DVB-H is put in model Samsung P910.
IPTV isn’t left out either – via the company’s very own AnyFilms.net one can watch short-length on-line movies. Only time will tell how this idea will turn out.
The main point of attraction at LG booth was seized by mobile TV – in the center of the stand we discovered an enlarged copy of LG FLO Phone – a handset supporting MediaFLO. Actually all other models differed only in types of video receivers.
S-DMB is announced in model SB130.
A cell-phone featuring DVB-H, no additional data available.
And this model has T-DMB standard embedded.
In its turn, Sagem demonstrated a pre-production model of MyMobile TV with a built-in DVB-H receiving set.
At Nec’s booth we also found a device with a DVB-H-receiver.
Considering the fact Nokia has already made public that its newest N92 supports DVB-H, and on the other hand Motorola and Sony Ericsson have announced support of this standard, it becomes absolutely evident what standard Europe is doomed to. Nonetheless mobile television is only in its first stages – staring from the middle to this year a lot of manufacturers will strive for attracting wide audience and as of today, it’s not clear whether the service will be as successful as it is predicted to be by its followers.
Published 03 April 2006
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