Archive for October 2008
Some time back, I had reported on the Verizon’s pricing of the Blackberry Storm. Today, Crackberry.com, got hold of Vodafone’s pricing. It is a tiered pricing with either higher upfront cost and lower monthly payments or lower upfront cost and higher monthly payments. Three of these plans have additional freebies too. Take a look:
- Under the Perfect Choice Access 100 plan, the Storm handset will retail for €109.99 and will cost €49.99 a month as part of a bundle that will include 100 minutes, 100 texts, 1GB of BlackBerry email, mobile TV and 10 full-track music downloads.
- Under the Perfect Choice Access 200 plan, the Storm handset will retail for €64.99 and will cost €64.99 a month as part of a bundle that will include 200 minutes, 200 texts, 1GB of BlackBerry email, mobile TV and 10 full-track music downloads.
- Under the Perfect Choice Access 400 plan, the Storm handset will retail for €69.99 and will cost €84.99 a month as part of a bundle that will include 400 minutes, 400 texts, 1GB of BlackBerry email, mobile TV and 10 full-track music downloads.
- And under the Perfect Choice Access 600 plan, the Storm handset will retail for €49.99 and will cost €99.99 a month as part of a bundle that will include 600 minutes, 600 texts, 1GB of BlackBerry email, mobile TV and 10 full-track music downloads.
Now, I say, this is a sensible pricing strategy. It gives the customer the flexibility to decide which plan suits their needs and also the device does not cost an arm and a leg, unlike the Verizon pricing of between $300 -$400 with 2-year contract. Also, Vodafone’s contract is for 18 months. Clearly, Vodafone sees that there is competition in the market and the economic times are going to put downward pressure on sales. I predict Vodafone will see robust demand with this pricing plan.
To most of us the name Sharp Aquos brings flat screen TVs to mind. But now, we can add smartphone to that name too. Softbank, the Japanese mobile carrier today announced that it will bring the first Sharp Aquos touchscreen phone to its network. And boy, does the phone scream Aquos. It is the first phone to have 1048X480 resolution on 3.8 inches screen. Its 3G feature set is also decent with 5 Mpxl camera with image stabilizer, accelerometer, 1seg TV tuner, and a media player with microSD expansion. And as you can see in the image below, it has dedicated key for Yahoo instant messenger and messaging. If the software on the phone is decent, this phone could be a true iPhone killer (at least in Japan ).
Best Buy has begun selling the N96, the flagship N series phone from Nokia. This is a dual slider phone with a large 2.8 inches display, 16GB of memory and 5Mpxl camera. You can read more about this phone here and here. If you have your heart set on this phone, be ready for the sticker shock. Boy Genius Report is saying that the Best Buy is selling the device for $799 in the store. However, online, Best Buy is selling it at $899.99 and is on back order.
Last week at the Symbian Smartphone Show in London, there was the first sighting of Nokia’s E63 smartphone. At first blush, it looks just like the E71. However, E63 is different from E71 in several respect. First of the E63 is thicker than E71. Second, it does not have a front camera for video calls. And also it has an all-plastic body instead of the metal one.
The E63 will come in three flavors: E63-1 for Europe, E63-2 with more memory and no camera potentially, and E63-3 for Americas. Here are the detailed specs as currently known:
- GSM and GPRS + EDGE
- UMTS + HSDPA
- Display: 240 x 320 Pixel, 18bit
- Camera: At least 2MP. No Front Camera.
- Symbian v9.1
- S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 1
- MIDP 2.0 and CLDC 1.1
- Has 3.5 mm jack connector
- Is thicker than E71
- Has a flashlight function (which by pressing the space bar immediately activated and can be disabled)
- No metal construction (plastic only) except Navikey and camera module
- No side buttons
- Left side: microSD slot and micro-USB connector (with hard plastic closure)
- The microphone is on the lower side (not front as E71)
- 2mm mains next to the microphone
- Bottom right (on the corner) is an eyelet
- Menu’s like E71, looks like FP1
No pricing or release dates are known.
[Via Boy Genius Report]
In a major change in strategy, Wall Street Journal is reporting that Motorola’s new CEO Shanjay Jha has decided that going forward it will streamline on three OSs for its phones. He will announce these changes as early as today during the earnings call. Motorola will use Google’s Android platform for its consumer targeted smartphones, ditching Symbian OS. It will uses its own P2K OS for feature phones and for the business focused phones, it will use Microsoft Windows Mobile platform. Also, Motorola is looking to outsource some of its Window Mobile based phone production to third parties. Motorola is expected to release its first Android-based, social networking focused smartphone in Q2, 2009.
Let’s hope the struggling Motorola can find its mojo with these changes. However, I am not optimistic about their chances. As I recently wrote, the mobile industry is starting to face some headwinds which are expected to get stronger in 2009. Just today, BusinessWeek reported that according to a survey by mobile application portal GetJar, 76% of users globally are actively looking to reduce their wireless bills and 78% are delaying their new phone purchase.
ASUS, a member of the Open Handset Alliance (OHA), is reportedly working on an Android-based device which it will launch in early next year. This news does not come as a surprise, as Google had recently invited ASUS to join the OHA. The phone will initially launch in Taiwan and will be customized for its clients worldwide. Also, to show its commitment to the OHA, ASUS has indicated that it would phase out the Ericsson Mobile Platform (which is not part of the OHA) in favor of their OHA brethren, Qualcomm and Marvell chipsets.
Blackberry Partners Fund, the $150 million investment vehicle started by RIM, makers of Blackberry devices, today announced that it had made its first investments. After reviewing over 3000 business ideas, Blackberry Partners Fund has decided to invest in the following three companies: Buzzd, WorldMate and Digby.
Buzzd is GPS based application that identifies your location and then shows you what is going on around you. It even gets data from sites like Zagat, Citysearch, etc.
WorldMate is mobile travel application that lets you plan and manage your trips including hotel and airline confirmation, weather information and any flight delays or cancellations.
Digby makes mobile commerce storefront for retailers like Overstock.com, 1-800-Flowers, etc.
Cox Communications, yesterday announced that it will launch an MVNO 3G network based on the Sprint’s EV-DO Rev A network. Today, Cable Digital News interviewed Stephen Bye, Cox’s Vice President of Wireless. In the interview, it became clear that Cox has designs beyond just becoming an MVNO. It is planning on integrating its wireless offering with its traditional cable offerings.
However, Cox has much larger plans. It is working on developing its own 3G network based off of Sprint’s network and promises seamless customer experience across both networks. In parallel, it is also developing its own customer service, back office, product integration, branding, supported devices, packaging, and product plans.
That is just for a start. Cox is eyeing the coming LTE transition and wants to position itself for it. It already has the AWS license that it acquired in 2006 and also the 700MHz license that it won in a recent auction. It plans to leverage these spectrum licenses as part of the LTE field trials which Bye says will start in 2009.
It is clear from Bye’s interview that Cox has decided that its future is in wireless. According to Bye,
Clearly wireless voice is important today and will be important in the future. We think there’s a new frontier… which is mobile data services and being able to take that broadband experience out of the home and take it with you
Considering it is the third cable provider behind Comcast and Time Warner, Cox may have decided that they might not want to be in the cable business. They see opportunity in the wireless business and when mobile TV takes off, they see themselves in an ideal position to leverage their cable expertise in that arena too.
RIM is busy working on its highly anticipated launch of the Blackberry Storm next month. There are high expectations of this phone from not only Verizon Wireless and early adopters, but also from analysts. I would expect RIM has a lot riding on this too. Let’s take a look why:
- Expectations: RIM had indicated when it released the Q2 financial statements, that it expects Q3 revenue to be between $2.9-$3.1 billion. That was with the assumption that it would launch the Blackberry Bold early in the quarter and follow it up with the Blackberry Storm release. With delayed release of the Blackberry Bold, it has a lot of ground to make up in the last month to meet those expectations.
- Competition: Apple has been eating RIM’s lunch since it launched its iPhone 3G, as evidenced by the stellar performance at both Apple and AT&T (even with the high cost of iPhone). Also, Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple has clearly indicated that he has RIM in his crosshair. RIM has to respond to this challenge. With iPhone 3G, Apple has tried to move into RIM’s enterprise turf. RIM is countering that with its Blackberry Bold (when it launches) and is hoping to fight the battle on Apple’s prosumer turf with the launch of Blackberry Storm. In addition, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows Mobile based touchscreen phones are also going to give RIM a headache.
- Economic Condition: Given the current economic climate, RIM has a lot to worry as enterprise customers, which make up almost 40% of its revenue, try to reduce spending. RIM is hoping that Blackberry Storm, Curve, Pearl and other prosumer targeted devices with touchscreen that it plans on releasing next year will help it offset the losses in the enterprise market.
- Investor Pressure: RIM management will be on short leash here given the economic jitters and constant bearish sentiment from the analysts. If the Blackberry Storm does not succeed, investors might push the co-CEOs out or worse look to sell it. The co-CEOs own 12% of the company and as such might not be easily pushed out, but they will have incredible pressure from institutional investors to change course. Also, the constant rumor of Microsoft being interested in buying RIM has to play a role in this. Note that when the rumor surfaced around October 13th, it was said that Microsoft had a standing offer to buy RIM at $50 a share. At that time, RIM’s stock price was at $61. Today, it is at $44. So, does that offer look good or what? However, I think it might be a smart move for Apple to make an offer. Steve Jobs wants to be successful in the enterprise market and if the iPhone starts losing its lustre, Apple will start looking like a one-trick pony, which I am sure Jobs and company will want to avoid. Also it would seriously challenge Microsoft in the mobile market. Though, from a cultural sense, I don’t know if RIM and Apple would be a good fit.
For all these reasons and more, RIM needs Blackberry Storm to succeed. It is doing everything it can to make it happen. Last few days has seen a flurry of activity including release of Blackberry Web Signals Technology and Blackberry Application Store; Blackberry Developer Conference and subsequent courting of the developer community; and massive marketing with Verizon Wireless and Vodafone. Now, like the US electorate, all RIM can do is wait for November and let the market decide.
Starting tomorrow, Walmart will start selling the Android based, HTC Dream G1 in about 550 stores nationwide. The phones will be priced at $148.88 with 2 year contract, which represents a discount of $31.11 from the price T-Mobile is selling at its stores.