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Day May 19, 2012

An interview with Chris Brennan for MacUser magazine UK

Chris Brennan asked a few important questions regarding potential saturation of the iPhone market.

Is the iPhone anywhere near saturation? Can Apple continue to shift iPhones in ever increasing numbers or is a sales plateau realistically on the horizon?

The market for mobile phones is approximately 5.5 billion connections, perhaps 5 billion users. The iPhone has approximately 300 million installed base. I consider a base of 1 billion users to be a minimum for continuing participation in this market long term. Licensed platforms will reach this in no more than two years. I don’t know what Apple’s ambitions are but if they don’t triple their base I don’t see a strong future for the company in mobile phones. In order to triple the base the company will need to sell substantially more than an additional 700 million iPhones. The retirement rate can be as high as 50% of installed base. Apple will need to sell at least 1 billion iPhones in the next few years. Seen another way, Apple has a market share of about 9% on a quarterly basis. This needs a lot of improvement. Chinese vendors are not standing still.

Can the Mac also continue to outperform the rest of the PC market for long?

An interview with Kenney Ho of The Chosun Daily of Korea

Kenney Ho, a staff reporter from Korean newspaper The Chosunilbo (The Chosun Daily) sent me a set of delightful questions.

According to Kenney, The Chosunilbo “has a history of 90 years, has been the most dominant, and influential paper of all time in Korea. It is the No.1 newspaper company in Korea with more than 1.8 million circulation, firmly holding the largest market possession. The paper is recognized Asianwide, where there are many readers in Japan and China.”

-You said “All mobile device vendors experiencing losses are not likely to really recover”. Even though, it wouldn’t mean that the employees, executives of Nokia has completely nothing in hands for recovery. If you are the CEO of Nokia right now, What are your steps to make Nokia recover its deficits?

My statement was based on the historic data which shows that 14 phone vendors have either exited the business or lost their independence during the last decade. No vendor that has reached a period of prolonged loss making has recovered. These are just observations and it’s possible that Nokia may be the first to recover. However, going by the patterns of the past, it would be very unlikely. When I thought about the reasons why companies have not been able to recover I came to the second observation about the way phones are sold. Once a brand reaches a point where it’s considered “risky” for distributors and operators to range they tend to defer purchases which leads to a spiral of continuing losses and more damage to the brand. The market amplifies “distress” and recovery becomes impossible.

If I were the CEO of Nokia I would set course for turning the company into a new business. I would approach the market asymmetrically and not try to compete directly with the other vendors. I would look toward services, platforms and software solutions and de-emphasize hardware.

-Many experts say that because Nokia dominated phone making industry in the 2000s, they maintained a corporate culture of complacency, which led them to decline. Do you agree with this? If you agree, Can you point out the examples of Nokia’s complacency?