December 2010
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Day December 6, 2010

When markets are supply constrained purchase decisions are not based on product performance

The difficulty in analyzing the smartphone market lies in its extremely rapid growth. With the market growing at 90% (and 400% in some areas like China) the forces of demand and supply are disconnected. It’s impossible to discern whether a purchase decision is made from a choice of comparable alternatives or if it’s made from a choice between buying nothing and some alternative.

Furthermore, another problem lies in distribution inefficiencies. The global phone market is nominally serving 4.6 billion consumers but they are not all participating in the same market.  Devices and the services they are bundled with are not fungible globally.  You cannot buy a phone is one country and easily couple it with service in another. You can’t even transfer one bundle from one owner to another within the same country. Products are available only in some countries or some operators and not in others.

Commentators focusing on mobile OS platform shares assume a zero sum game and a liquid, efficient market. Both assumptions are false.