- You'll Be the Winner of This Blue Chip Battle
- The China Smartphone Brand That's Beating Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL)
- Windows 8: Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) Strikes Back at Apple and Google
- Fist-Sized Cellular Antennas Will Help Feed Data-Hungry Smartphones
- Verizon iPhone On the Way – But Not Before Christmas
Most investors who pour money into smartphone makers look to dominant players like Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) - but they're missing a bigger part of the market.
The global smartphone industry is changing dramatically, as China surpassed the United States in 2012 to become the world's largest smartphone market by volume. Smartphone shipments to China in the third-quarter of 2012 hit a record 60 million.
Apple has noticed this shift. In fact, Apple CEO Tim Cook recently told Chinese-run Xinhua News Agency that he believes China will become the company's biggest market in the future.
But for now, it's the domestic brands that have won.
"Chinese brands have taken more than half the Chinese smartphone market this year, and they will take much more," Sandy Shen, the head of consumer research at technology research company Gartner in Shanghai, told the Financial Times.
Microsoft unveiled a beta version of Windows 8 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week.
With a final release expected in the fall, Microsoft needs Windows 8 to be a winner.
Microsoft's Windows, which has owned desktop computing with a market share well over 90%, has not fared as well on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.
Instead, Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG) have dominated the "post-PC era" with such products as the iPad and the Android operating system.
The Redmond, WA, tech giant now hopes that Windows 8, optimized for the touchscreens of mobile computing but sharing a unified look and feel between its tablet and desktop versions, will reverse its fortunes in mobile computing.
"Microsoft's future path is riding on Windows 8 and its success," Gartner Inc. (NYSE: IT) analyst David Cearley told the Associated Press. "This is a chance for Microsoft to re-establish itself in a market where it's becoming increasingly irrelevant."
Microsoft is at a critical juncture.
The Windows and Office franchises that the company was built on rely on continued growth in the PC market which has slowed in recent years.
This stagnation in the PC market has hurt Windows sales. Revenue from the Windows division was down 6% in the December quarter - the fourth time in the past five quarters that revenue from Windows has declined year-over-year.
Meanwhile, Apple has become the most valuable company in the world on the strength of its iPhone and iPad businesses.
Unless Windows 8 can establish a strong presence in mobile computing, Microsoft risks getting left on the sidelines of tech - still moderately successful, but with little chance for growth and waning influence.
Several wireless network equipment vendors have been demonstrating such products this week in Barcelona, Spain at the Mobile World Congress, the world's largest cell phone trade show.
The new technology can't arrive soon enough for the carriers. A deluge of demand from smartphones and the nascent tablet PC market in the next few years threatens to overwhelm current wireless networks, even with the ongoing deployment of the next-generation network LTE, or Long Term Evolution. Carriers will need to handle 26 times the volume of data traffic in 2015 as they did in 2010, according to Cisco Systems Inc.'s (NASDAQ: CSCO) latest Visual Networking Index Forecast.
However, the phone won't make it out in time for the Christmas season, as many had hoped.
Apple will be ramping up to mass produce the new touchscreen handset by the end of 2010 and release it in the first quarter of 2011, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal. While the phone would be similar to the iPhone 4 sold by its current carrier, AT&T (NYSE: T), it would be based on an alternative wireless technology used by Verizon, the people said.
The Verizon iPhone will mark the end of AT&T's agreement with Apple that gave the telecommunications giant exclusive rights to market and sell the handset since 2007, when Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs introduced the original iPhone.
Verizon has been testing its networks and capacity to handle the heavy data load by iPhone users, seeking to avoid the kind of bad publicity that plagued AT&T after booming sales of data-hungry iPhones crippled its network.