There's been a bit of commentary noting that there were not as many compelling new (high-end) devices presented at MWC this year as anticipated, particularly in comparison to CES. Why was that the case and what does it point to for the semi and electronics supply chain?
One billion to come
Notably, what we did see quite a bit of at MWC 2013 were devices and OEMs directly targeting and actively addressing the needs of the increasingly important Emerging Market (EM) consumers. These new users, for the most part, comprise what is being called, "the next billion," and OEMs are strategically wise to (finally) target them. As discussed last week, the overall forecasts for mobile continue to show sustained growth, primarily because of the second growth wave for mobile and tablet activations coming out of the EM.
To meet the EM demand though, different products must be presented to meet not only significantly lower price points, but importantly to address the feature needs, power efficiencies due to recharging access, and connectivity availability and constraints in those markets at a local level. This is precisely what a number of the OEMs, most notably Nokia, at MWC presented, discussed and displayed, when many mobile devices that are not smartphones were demonstrated this week.
It's not about pitching low, nor going for high volume over higher pricing, it is about meeting the needs that exist in the global market, as many reiterated around MWC, such as underscored by Nokia CEO, Stephen Elop. So what we saw at MWC, unlike at CES, is the growing shift and focus to the middle- and lower-priced mobile devices to reach those markets that have, honestly, been rather untouched, make that not-yet-inundated, by the plethora of smartphones we have seen hitting the mature markets.
It's a core competence
So why does all of this not-cutting edge device news warrant note? Well, sure, let's admit that volume does really count (and add up), but it's also about how to design the best architectural solution to meet the market constraints and demands. Addressing the EM demand is not just about throwing yesterday's (cheaper) chips into a smaller device with fewer features and putting a lower price on it. The technology driving these middle- and lower-priced mobile devices are able to provide significant features that any smartphone user would immediately appreciate. For example, what about 12.5 hours of talk time and a battery standby of 35 days without needing a charge? Where do you find this type of feature series, well, it is richly provided across Nokia's new line-up of phones starting with the "superbasic" 105 mobile phone and spanning through various levels all intended for the emerging market sectors in Africa and Asia. Once you get into the higher-levels, these Nokia devices, which have really taken front-stage at MWC, will be available in EU and the North American markets.
How these devices are able to provide these features are deserving of note because, obviously, they are among the demands that all mobile users would appreciate. Getting to the point of providing complex cores that are able to be equally power frugal is obviously where innovation and solutions are headed for the industry. With the continued rise in portable and wearable electronics, whether for health and fitness or the increasing wristwatch and similar smaller footprint devices, how the industry maximizes the latest die shrinks to work within these footprints and with the feature demands is a significant driver for the next wave of semiconductor and electronics growth in 2013+.