Smartphones will continue to exist. But most of the value is in their modem functions. They allow other device to get connected to the outside world. In that context, I see the battle for innovation competition unfolding not in smartphones, but "things" that are connected to smartphones.
I personally think the wearables won't be close to replacing the phone market. The reason isthat mobiles got so popular was that they offered a solutions for basic needs: boredom and wanting to be distracted. And they are addictive. And they were without competition.
By those criteria most wearable are less appealing(maybe with exception to glass). And the numbers talk for themself - the market estimates are much lower than mobile market.
My guess about what will replace the smartphone market is virtual reality glasses(and the required strong pc's). Valve thinks they'll be perfect in 2 years , and perfect meaning giving you the experience of presence, just being there.Users who use their research system agree. Others described this experience as being inside a dream. And many content authors are very excited about it , so there be plenty of amazing content.
I agree with Yoshida that the luster is gone from the smart phones. Perhaps Google is smart to get out of that business. On the other hand, it was stupid to lose $10 Billion in the transaction. (Some small loss is unavoidable due to changing market conditions. But selling Motorola for 20 cents for each Dollar paid cannot be louded as a good business decision.) Google made a good strategic decision, and a poor financial one in the short term.
The acquisition of Nest is along the same lines. Good move strategically, but very poor financially. They paid 10 to 15 times as much as what Nest is worth for. If Nest was unwilling to be acquired for a realistic price (which I assume was the case) Google could have redeveloped everything on their own for a lot less money. Is going to market six months early worth $3B? I very much doubt it.
I couldn't agree more. To take a $10B loss selling Motorola after only 2 years of ownership despite Google's networth of $200B is still 5% of its total value. Likewise buying Nest for 10x its actual earnings is beyond logic, both deals are very high stakes intuition.
I don't understand how you come up with a $10B loss. Google most likely bought MM to get the patents so they would have an arsenal for defense against Apple and Microsoft. As I understand it, Google is keeping the patents and getting rid of the part of MM that they don't know what to do with.
You got that right. Buy the company, get a chance to rummage through the spoils, pick what you like, then hold a garage sell for the leftovers. That purchase had nothing to do with Google taking over Motorola.
Yes, its clear Google likely just wanted the patents. Google management has given it a value of the difference in sale price, ~ $10B. Is it truly worth $10B? How was such a valuation made? How is any valuation made? Time will tell and it takes big cajones to spend so much, the same cajones that gave Nest a valuation 10x of their current earnings.
Like Bitcoin, it's hard to say what a pile of patents are worth. IMO it's just the price of admission if you want to play Smart Phones with the big boys. You can get a pile of patents the old-fashioned way by writing lots and lots of patents and having the USPTO rubber-stamp them. Or you can just buy a bunch of them.
When Nortel went bankrupt their pile of approx 6000 patents sold for US$4.5B. Hard to say what they're worth in principle, seeing as how all those patents didn't keep Nortel out of bankrupcy. Google bid for those patents, starting at US$900M and ending at US$3.14159B. As you can tell from the second number, Google was being gamesome, or maybe ratcheting up the bidding so that the consortium (incl Apple and Microsoft) would waste a lot of money on the patents, weakening their ability to compete on products. At least with MM, Google bought a going concern, and the patents in question are probably more germane to smart phones and other mobile computers. Also, MM had 17,000 patents with another 7500 pending.
Besides, if you have a huge cajón full of money you might as well use it to protect yourself when you see known patent agressors spend US$4.5B -- they might want to engage in mischief to get some ROI. As Chief Brody said in Jaws (1975) "You're gonna need a bigger boat".
I think the phone will need to have a strong video compression engine,because one use case of glass will be augmenting our vision and that will requiure sending our vision in a compressed form to the cloud(for analysis), and I'm not sure glass has enough power for a strong video compression .
You are right on, Junko. The now ubiquitous smartphone is your pocket portal to communicating with all people and systems in our lives including someday all of those internet-of-things we keep hearing about. It will be THE universal remote. It will be the bring-your-own HMI to everything.
I couldn't agree more. I use my smartphone less for what the phone actually has, than what it connects me too. Its the old client server model, what the servers do having a far larger application future than the client stations.
There are less applications that are best local on the smartphone than virtual on a server, the same paradigm as I use laptops and desktops today.
For Google to make a very quick shift in strategy and not worry about a $10B loss then paying 10x more for Nest takes a lot of cahones.
I agree with the predition on the trend, however I think you underestimate the value of having a nice compact package of everything you want with you in your pocket (or purse for the ladies). I no longer have to carry a thumb drive, I never owned an I pod or a garmin, and I threw out my point & shoot camera. This functional integration is not going to go away and will still remain a priority to consumers. Now I agree witht the trend, synch your phone to better speakers to listen to your music, a full size screen, and I really want to see the tablet that is nothing more then a big touchscreen for my smartphone. I just think its a bit too far to predict that your phone will be reduced to an LTE Modem.
In addition to what you mentioned, the core of the smart phone may be changing quite radically too. Or, at least Google might think it will. Combine a 2nd or 3rd generation Google Glass type device with a 2nd or 3rd generation smart watch and the need for a phone, as we know it today, simply goes away.
A few years ago, I could see desktop and laptop computers being replaced by wireless display and keyboard in combination with a smart phone. Today, I can see the phone component of that picture being replaced by something in a completely different form factor.
But I think a more realistic scenario is that smartphones' functions aren't entirely hijacked by such peripherals as Google Glass or smartphones. Instead, the smartphones' capabilities will be diminished to, say, LTE modem.
Why I say that? It's because it's still hard for me to imagine that so many people who already have smartphones today will trade their phones with Google Glass!
That makes a lot of sense, but at some point, if the only major component is the LTE modem, it could be stick into the watch of Glass - maybe. I can see the display as a big variable. If people like the Glass type display, then they'll likely not care to carry around a phone size display.
Those that aren't comfortable obscuring their vision might still need to carry around s poakcet display. Maybe that display, then, is just a display and an LTE modem.
Junko "yes, the differentiator of all those new and old devices really comes down to the display. I agree."
Displays are different than the rest of the hardware. Of course, a few years ago, I couldn't have imagined wanting to spend time reading anything on a 4" diagonal screen. Unless it's the only thing available, it's kind of silly as far as I'm concerned.
I can envision a lot of use for Google Glass type devices, but I think it would be pretty distracting. Maybe the answer will come in the form of flexible, rollable and foldable thin screens - Keep it folded up in your wallet, purse, backpack or pocket an pull it out when you need a display. Maybe it could resize the image based on you much you've unfolded vs. how much is folded under.
I think it depends on "which Lenovo", e.g. which product line, which is true of many PC makers. My Lenovo Thinkpads (a X61t and T43) have been very solid and reliable. OTOH, I don't think the consumer laptops have the same reputation
Humans love to see patterns even where none exist but I think the conclusion the writer came to is much stretched. Most large companies in the valley have lots of cash that they use to buy up companies on an impulse and years later shut them down or sell them for a write-off. Intel, Cisco, Symantec, Google, Microsoft .... look at their acquisition history and make up your mind. I would argue the three events are barely connected. With the Motorola acquisition, I don't think Google ever intended to get into the hardware business. If they were serious about getting into smartphone hardware, why wouldn't their Motorola unit produce the Google Nexus line of phones and tablets? From day one, all they wanted was Motorola's IP (to defend against patent lawsuits) and the skunkworks division and they are keeping those after the Lenovo deal. The Samsung deal was some time in the making. Such deals don't happen overnight with all the legalese involved especially given all the suing going around Android. Nest? I will chalk it up against an impulse buy. A hardware business with low entry barrier. Already there are Nest competitors, both old and new, that are offering similar products. Give it a few years, Google will get out of Nest. Right now Google is just a confused teenager who doesn't know what it wants to be when it grows up. All they know is ads brings lots of dollars and they have lots and lots of them in the bank.
jnashee wrote: Right now Google is just a confused teenager who doesn't know what it wants to be when it grows up.
IMO Google knows exactly what it is: a company that sells advertising. Lots and lots of advertising. That's how they make their money, and IMO the whole point of smart phones as far as Google is concerned is to deliver more adverts and charge more because they're "better focused". Without Android, there is no way for Google to prevent Apple and Microsoft from taking over delivery of adverts, cutting off Google's lifeblood.
Patent lawsuits are a plague on a company like Google. They distract them from working on new ways to deliver adverts. If you're a cash-rich company like Google, you can either hoard cash and wait for others to sue you, or you can spend that money up front and take patents out of circulation so others aren't using them against you. Defense is expensive, but cheaper than wars of attrition.
Many people deduced that Google bought Motorola to get a bunch of patents and the hardware really didn't matter. In fact, the idea that Google could make phones that competed with Samsung and other Android producers created a degree of concern that Google might spoil their ecosystem, as Microsoft did by coming up with its own Windows 8 hardware. Selling off the Motorola hardware puts these fears to rest.
That is my point that today they know how to make money from ads but they have been trying to bring in new revenue streams because any management would want multiple products out there to hedge their bets. But they don't have any other viable alternate product that brings in cash. They tried selling music. Didn't work. They are selling enterprise services but isn't exactly a rage.
Anyways, my original point was that the three activities that the writer tried to link aren't really related all that much so the conclusion that smartphones are going down the tube does not seem sustainable.
@jnashee, i see what you are saying. The three things that I mentioned may not be directly linked, but they are, nonetheless. important data points that speak of a trend -- the trend of maturing smartphone market.
Agreed, the smartphone market has matured very fast, compared to say, how long PC market took to get there. Now, here I see a trend. Newer technologies/tools and even companies are going through the birth-growth-saturation-death cycle faster and faster.
First, let me address smartphones. From a product differentiation point of view, the only way humans could consume/interact with computers was using a desktop and then a laptop. That was your Ford Model T. Smartphones were the next "product" in the computer line. Cheaper than PCs, offering different functionality and in some sense, less functionality. As with any other market, product differentiation can expand the market as it brings in new customers. Smartphones brought in a whole slew of customers who would otherwise would not either interact with computers or would not interact as much. But if you look at the PC cycle - it took from 80s to early 2000s for that product to get to saturation/maturation. Smartphones went through the cycle much quickly, although I would argue they are not at saturation yet.
Wearables are the next in line of computers. It has been beaten to death but the car market analogy is very apt one to understand product differentiation. Steve Jobs talked about it in one of the interviews when asked about death of the PC.
Now, to tools/products/technologies/companies. Notice how long phones (POTS) took to mature and become commodity? Then, cellphones? Email? Those cycles were long but were in descending order phones, cellphones, email. Social media by comparison, as a mode of communication, rose much faster than email but people are already talking of death of Facebook.
Companies. Microsoft took almost 30 years to go from birth to saturation. Yahoo, about 15. Google, about 10. Facebook, less than 5? Now, we have companies/products like Snapchat and Instagram that rose much faster and might already be disappearing or saturating.
I don't know how this will progress but it is fun to watch :)
I don't know if Google is a confused teenager not knowing what it wants to be anymore. I think its more of a confident mature adult, with a brimming sense of exactly wha tit wants to be--but that makes it capable of making mistakes as well.
IMO, to Google, hardware has always been a commodity.
What is important to Google is the software and "services" that they provide from the use of the hardware, because it's profitable and sustainable. HW simply is not profitable nor sustainable, othewise for example Microsoft wouldn't be selling their XBox at a lost. And Microsoft is now trying to sell their software as 'services', instead of like a 'product'.
With that said, Google still needs to be involved in some aspect of HW, that's because they must realized their new concepts, being a tech leader and product/system definer. Especially the ones in the R&D. Otherwise, it's just all tell and no show. But once a new concept is realized and takes off, they'll throw away the HW and maintain the software and "services".
I wonder if Junko is simply being provocative on the form-factor issue. Google has always been a failure at directing hardware architectures, but the death of the smartphone? I'd say it has a far greater guaranteed lifetime than either the tablet or wearables, simply because its hand-size is handy! Tablets are awkward, wearables are for the most part dumb. I see the latter improving over time, but I think the tablet is a lot more questionable form factor than the smartphone.
@Loring, yes, I am being provocative. That's my job.
However, one of the things that I probably didn't explain it well. I am NOT saying that smartphones will disappear. They will live for decades. But the very nature of smartphones will change. Rather than it serving as a platform to integrate a lot of things on, I am predicting its core value will be reduced to its modem. It's a commodity that everyone will use. And yet, the real value of the smartphone lives in other things -- peripherals -- people will use which will simply wirelessly connected to the smartphone that everyone has.
I don't think any wearable devices we know it today WILL replace the smartphone.
The smartphone will be there -- intact. But we will have a variety of devices (none of which will have as huge a volume as the smartphone does) that are designed to leverage the smartphone.
But of course I agree, and to add to your story, I still hope theres some evolution left in the smart phone cell form factor (think StarTreck tri-corder... (with a laser blaster :-)
But yes, growth can come else where. This morning for example, I left work and 1/2 way there I forgot if I closed garage door (darn, left in such a hury, did I shut the garage door or not?) Was about to turn back and then remembered I live in a smart house (i.e., last two decades I've been playing with Insteon, X-10, ZigB, etc. - pretty much jetson house by now :-). Duuh, open my website where I have access to my home automation server and press a button to ensure the garge door is closed. Problem solved.
And, if you have teenagers that are supposed to be home by midnight, well, the log files for when doors and lights have been opened or turned on/off might come in handy reminding them they exceeded thier curfu :-) (Big brother is watching, OK, engineering Dad is watching :-)!
Of course, I'm a technical nerd and putting this home automation together was a labor of love. But, for people struggling with the blinking clock on thier VCR (OK, we need a better - more up to date analogy for techno-clutzes these days :-) I think home automation is just a subset of the Internet of things (i.e., made brain dead simple and inexpensive).
I fully agree with Junko that the smartphone is no longer a prime product, it is becoming a commodity like the laptops became commodity back in 2005.
Google, Apple , Samsung, and the likes, are the companies who would always like to say at the cutting edge of the technology , develop new wave products and sale them at premium pricing , make huge profits and make their brands stronger
Piece by piece Chinese bought many American high tech company. We should not let them by Motorola. American goverment should by this Motorola to keep them fold to chinese hand. Then give it to any one who can present a better plan to resurect the company.
Smartphones are over. Now that we can understand the implications, no one in their right mind would carry one of these invasive tracking devices around in their pocket, knowing that their purpose is to spy on you and to completely invade your privacy.
If you do have one, wrap it in aluminum foil when not in use. This creates a "Faraday cage" and no radio emissions can get in or out.
But the true question is, why have you bought this intrusive device in the first place, selling yourself to advertisers and to others not so wholesome, for NOTHING?
Primarily, this is about Google, not about Smartphones. First, the shedding of Motorola Mobility. Google's stated case is that the Smartphone market is too intense for it to be a hobby: you need to be focused on it. Motorola had some good ideas, even a few hits, prior to the Google acquisition, but they were fading. Google added some ideas, but didn't really change that. That alone may be enough.
But this is also about Android. I believe that Android started, like many Google projects, as kind of a hobby, too. The idea was that if Google could control part of the smartphone client, they could ensure that the Google search and services couldn't be locked out of the mobile market -- something that, prior to Android, could have happened over a weekend, if Apple, Nokia, RIM, and Microsoft go together on it. I think they believed, just as on the internet, that if they had a non-trivial share of the mobile search market, they'd force the rest to support them... Google won, after all, on merit. Not sneaky tricks.
And a funnny thing happened on the way to that job of enabling Google search and services didn't get locked out... Android won the Gen2 smartphone wars. I'm not suggesting that Google didn't deserve it... quite the contrary, their mix of open source and open involvement delivered a superior "industry standard" than Microsoft managed in the PC desktop days. But this did make Android more important to Google, because of its success.
So thinking about that, review the Motorola sale and the Samsung deal. Both work to strengthen Android, and pretty much just that. If taken only on the merits of that divesture, Google's now clearly going to stay "clean" in the Android world... no worries about their playing favorits with Motorola. No idea how much blow-back from the Android OEMs there was, but certainly there was some. And this is also at a particulary critical juncture: Microsoft has now entered both the PC and the mobile market as a hardware vendor, selling directly against their Windows OEMs with no licensing costs, and in a weak PC market. Meanwhile, a bunch of companies showed off desktop Android at CES. The Google deal with Samsung shores up the IP base for Android, getting both companies working in the same direction against legal threats.
In short, all this tells me is that Google recognizes the importance of Android as a long-term strategy and platform... it's very clearly not a hobby anymore.
As for Nest, I think that's pretty much unrelated. Google is still Google, even in the Android era. Nest has lots to imply about Google's view of the "Internet of Things", which, being fundamentally still an internet company, makes all the sense in the world. Having done startups for the 20 years, I can tell you for certain that if I had been at a company like Nest, the thermostat and smoke alarm would just be the tip of the iceberg... and I think that's going to prove a big reason for Google's interest, as well as the price they paid. As well, there are lots of things you'd like to do in their position, maybe the first well-known IoT brand among consumers, that you'd never be able to do right as a small company. Google had the might and cash to do it right, and that probably means giving stuff away.
That's also an important thing to see in Google's business: giving stuff away. As EET readers, we know another company like that: Intel. Intel wants to sell chips. And they do all kinds of things that are very good for the industry as a whole, just to help sell chips. This started back with PCI and USB... make a better PC, and Intel makes money. Better, more standard, and easy-to-use interconnection technologies make a better PC. Google has done a bunch of these kinds of things, building technologies to solve problems, in mobile and on the net, to help advance their mission, sure, but also enabling a bunch of others. Expect to see that kind of thing come out of the whole Nest thing.
Be certain, Google is thinking forward. Keep in mind, they bought Boston Dynamics... a pretty cool robotics company, back in December. What may not be common knowledge is that was the 8th robotics company bought by Google. They also bought Bot & Dolly, Autofuss, Meka Robotics, Redwood Robotics, Holomni, Schaft, and Industrial Perception. And as well, AI startup Deep Mind, and that just a week ago. That's a pretty good indication just how serious Google is about smart machines... if you didn't already get that from the AI lab Google runs with NASA....
Once again you have taken a controversial stand, but I couldn't agree with you more. Both my son and daughter have Smartphones, but frankly, I just don't see the necessity of owning one. I already know where all the good restaurants are and I really like the Garmin GPS I already have. I'm not particularly interested in Facebook and I don't feel the need to cruise the Internet or check my email everywhere I go.
And most importantly, Smartphones have done nothing to improve the audio quality of voice communications which is the only reason I have a Cell Phone in the first place. Why do we not yet have cell-phones that have a 20 Hz to 20 KHz audio response? In most cases, even with the most expensive Smart-Phones, I can barely understand the other party. Many of our Sales folks have reverted back to land lines for important sales transactions so they don't have to ask the opposing party to constantly repeat themselves.
Yes Junko, the era of Smart-Phones is coming to an end... that is, unless they find another killer app.
It seems that as the latest electronic devices become commodities, the originating companies get into trouble, because they are so used to the high profit margins of market leaders required for advanced engineering.
We saw IBM get out of PCs. We see Blackberry in trouble. Nortel got wiped out. Motorola has been bought out a couple of times. IBM is out of x86 servers. The Japanese audio/video companies are basket cases.
As an electronic device becomes a commodity, consumers expect the 10 year service life of an appliance. Margins get tight. Smart phones are approaching the commodity level as are tablets. Apple may get into trouble selling hardware, but iTunes should keep it afloat for a long time.
Once a product becomes a commodity, incorporating planned obsolescence doesn't cut it with consumers. Consumers expect a 10 year untroubled life from an appliance. More and more people are becoming disgruntled with Windows. Microsoft is diversifying into hardware, which does not compute, as it is used to high markup from its OS monopoly position, not the tight margins of an appliance manufacturer.
We can see the struggle in the marketplace in audio/video products. Audio has been a commodity for decades. Sony, a market leader, used to high margins is in real trouble, selling off its capital assets. 3D is a faded hope, despite 3D BluRays and 3D TV. 4K re-branded as UltraHD is a basket case. There is no real 4K source material, except HD BluRays enhanced for HD to UltraHD processors. Unfortunately, these 4K enhanced BluRays are unique to each 4K TV manufacturer. There are no 4K broadcast standards being seriously considered. Playstation and Xbox are repeating the HD-DVD versus BluRay war only this time half half-heartedly for 4K. The average consumer couldn't care less about quality - witness the switch from CD to MP3 or mediocre BluRay sales or HDTV eclipsed by smartphone screens.
China is being handed the exhausted technology leaders of the last century on a platter. Is the only hope for U.S. companies patent royalties? Technology is evolving away from the U.S.
Where is the next killer app we so desperately need? Nest! You've got to be kidding.
I like this vision of the future and agree with it in part, but another dimension to consider is the spread of malware and the opportunity for attackers as it becomes more common to connect your smartphone to things. particularly if they are public things. Most of these peripherals are not hardended against cyberthreats like they should be.
I agree totally that the smartphone is/will be morphing into more of a commodity computing platform, working with any number of peripherals. If there's ANYTHING convincing about this "PC in decline" mantra, that would be it. Powerful multicore, 64-bit smartphones could become the brain of PCs, as long as the peripherals connected to them are adequate.
But the best part of this point of view is that finally someone at EE Times has achnowledged that just maybe, "high tech" did not start and end with the smartphone. Thanks, Junko. Watch the incredulous reactions!
Like anything else, over time, the stand-alone smartphone will be just another transitional product.
Google has a huge advantage: selling and marketing is far cheaper for it than any other manufacturer.Usually the margins retailers take on consumer electronics are maybe 30%-50% fo product costs. If google sells online only(which it already did in chromecast and in india for moto g) it can cut it to a few percents probably.
That's a huge unfair price advantage.
Also this might be part of moves by google to shift manufacturers to sell online only, since google makes it money online. Maybe.
About 5 years ago I got a smartphone with a full compliment of inertial sensors & connectivity options. Fast forward to today and the ONLY differences I see between the latest models is faster processors & different screen sizes/resolution.
Since I'd rather watch a sports event or movie on a 55" monitor, video resolution on a small screen is a non-issue. I can't understand why people sacrifice quality for convenience, but I need only look at the history of MP3's to understand how it's happening.
A faster processor would be nice ... but it doesn't help me read my email any faster.
So with the above in mind, I'd say that the smartphone peaked a number of years ago. It's definately a commodity device with no further means of expanding. But what it does have is a quick, accessable interface and using it as a dumb terminal for other devices is pretty much assured. Other products can be easily developed using the smartphone as a display and data input device. This is a huge bonus to developers as now they can focus on their product and not necessarily the user interface. Expect the hype to change from what the smartphone is, to what it can control.
Some of you may not know what Dumb Terminals are since they are a relic of the early days of computing, when IBM room-sized main-frame computers, which sold for about $30 million, were all the rage. The idea at the time was to have all the heavy computing done on a powerful stand-alone computer and just have visual interfaces, i.e. Dumb Terminals, to show the results to the end user.
They don't call them main-frames any more. They have a new name for them; they call them, "The Cloud." So the "new???" idea is to have all the heaving lifting done on the Cloud and just download the results to a "Visual Interface" i.e. a Smartphone.
Even though we will call them Smartphones, comparatively, they won't be very smart for a number of reasons; size, weight, battery life, storage capacity, and other limitations. Most of the real computing will be done remotely, on the Cloud, and the Smartphone will just display the results.
So even though the Smartphone will appear to be smart to the end user, in essence it will morph into nothing more than a Dumb Terminal. And thus, the cycle of technology will have reached its conclusion. Stated another way, what goes around comes around.
Of course the problem with the smart phone as dumb terminal is that it has to be connected. While the cost of being connected is reasonable (and going down) and the bandwidth is definitely going up, the reality is that one can't always be connected. I'm in my third house around the outskirts of Denver. This is the first one in 14 years where cell service has been available, and no, none of them were "out in the wilderness" each was settled enough to be service by paved roads within a mile and have some sort of homeowners association. Two of the three even had cable TV accessible. And cell service was available just down the road or by climbing a tree.
As I travel the roads of Colorado, there are a lot of places I can't use Google Maps because my carrier (no carrier, for that matter) covers it. Even now, my office, in a walk out basement has marginal cell coverage. If it wasn't for my Wi-Fi, I'd be in pain.
For the urban dweller, internet of things controlled by a smart phone may work just fine, but for "the rest of us", even vacation road travelers, we depend on what is actually stored n the phone and what can actually run on the phone. I don't see that reality changing real soon now. The money (for the carriers) is where the population density is high, and they reach beyond that only when not doing so causes enough pain to enough of their customers.