Category Market

When will smartphones reach saturation?

50% penetration for smartphones in the US turned out to be fairly predictable. I tracked my predictions based on comScore data and the results are shown in the following graph.

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I began making predictions in May 2010 and updated the estimate every month since. As the chart shows, the prediction converged to early September 2012 by early 2011. The actual date was sometime in late August 2012.

How much do maps cost and what are they worth?

How much does it cost to have the world’s best maps?

The answer may seem simple: $8.1 billion.

That was the cost to Nokia in cash for buying Navteq in October 2007. It would seem that buying that asset (or another one like it) is a cut-and-dried solution to anyone needing a mapping “solution”. But it’s not an answer that is either complete or explanatory of how mapping solutions are valued.

Navteq was not priced as a database for an app. It was a business which was expected to create licensing revenues and profits[1]. The actual price for this business net of cash was $7.7 billion but the following graph shows the net sales and operating profits since Nokia began reporting its performance:

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The blue area represents the difference between sales and costs and hence the operating expenses–the payments needed to “keep the lights on”.

Calibrating launch performance for the iPhone in China

When the iPhone 5 launched Apple promised availability in 100 countries before the end of year. This was a very aggressive plan given the gradual release of previous products. Last year the iPhone 4S only arrived in China (along with 21 additional countries) on January 13th. This year it was almost a month earlier.

Apple also announced for the first time this year first weekend sales for China: 2 million. This is, as far as I know, the first weekend sales data for a single market outside of the US. The time span was three days and therefore the daily sales rate was 2/3 million per day.

The following chart compares the launch performance for the launches which Apple reported:

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If we normalize by population,

Below the Surface

Early data shows that the PC market has not experienced a “pop” from Windows 8. Market watchers have been anticipating this pop since every previous version of Windows has led to a surge in shipments. PC vendors have also been hoping for this to lift their volumes. Volumes have been stagnant for a while, as the following chart shows:

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If we combine the traditional PC and tablet markets—what I refer to as “large and medium screen PCs”— there has been growth. However the growth is all due to the tablets. When seen in a share split (blue tablets vs. brown Windows PC’s) the shift toward tablet computing is clear.

Does S stand for Spring?

John Sculley:

“I think they’re going through a very significant change now in terms of product cycles,” Sculley explains. “Traditionally Apple introduces products once a year; now it’s really introducing products twice a year. The complexity of that from a supply chain is immense, and Apple seems to be doing it well. So, I think that people are underestimating just how well Apple is run, and just how successful the company can be when it gets to that twice-a-year product introduction cycle.”

Former Apple CEO John Sculley: Apple is well-run | TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Suggesting that Apple is moving to a semi-annual cycle is a very provocative thing to say, but it’s something I’ve also speculated is happening during a Critical Path podcast.  Sculley’s comments prompted me to weigh the possible evidence that this is happening:

  1. All of the major products which Apple sells have been updated in the Fall. This is unprecedented. Not only were product launches scheduled in the spring, historically they had been spread throughout the year. The odds that they happen to coincide by accident are nil. Not only that but the move of iPad and iPhone and iPod and MacBook and iMac to launch all within Fall (once a year) seems risky because it leaves a vast gap for competitors to fill six months hence. Indeed, given the iPhone’s launch predictability, many (most?) competing products already target launching in the Spring.
  2. Launch ramp for iPhone steeper than ever. The number of countries and operators launching the product in the launch quarter is nearly the entire distribution list. This is also the first time this has happened. Not only does it imply a very steep ramp, it indicates no channel fill will be happening past Q1. There will not be incremental sales to unserved customers as the fiscal year wears on. 

The cost of selling Galaxies

In the post “Google vs. Samsung” I compared the profits of Google and Samsung Electronics’ mobile (aka Telecoms) division. It showed how Samsung has grown its mobile business to such a degree that, if sustained, could conceivably influence the way Android is controlled.

However, we should not analyze Samsung’s mobile group in isolation of the entire company. Samsung relies on internal transfer of technology and capacities of production which are quite unique for device vendors today. In other words, Samsung is a relatively integrated enterprise. Understanding the whole is necessary before understanding the part.

The following graph shows the sales and operating profit for  Samsung Electronics as a composite of its divisions since early 2008.

As one would expect, the mobile group (Telecom) is the source of both top and bottom line growth. The group has also been leading in terms of margins and increasing those margins steadily. 

Validating the Android engagement paradox

Following yesterday’s IBM data, Monetate released a new study showing similar data related to retail browsing but covering a period of dates from Q3 2011 to Q3 2012.

This data also shows an acceleration of mobile shopping, from 7.7% of online in Q3 2011 to 18.8% in Q3 2012.

It also shows tablets growing to take about half of mobile traffic in a very short time frame.

The data also shows the iPad taking the vast bulk of traffic among tablets (88.9% vs. 88.3% from IBM).

The Android engagement paradox

IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark reported US Black Friday sales and the news is reasonably good. Overall online sales grew by 17.4% while mobile grew to make up 24% of traffic.

The data goes further to show the split between device types. I illustrate this split with the following graphs:

Of the 24% of traffic made up by mobile devices, phones contributed 13% and tablets 11% (or 54% and 46% of mobile respectively). Of the phone traffic, iOS devices were about two thirds of traffic and Android one third. Of tablet traffic, iPad was 88%, Kindle and Nook were 5.5% Galaxy Tab was 1.8% and other tablets were 4.4%.

Overall, iOS was 77% generated mobile traffic and Android (excl. Kindle, Nook) was 23%.

That’s an interesting snapshot of the consumption of mobile devices, but is there a pattern here?

The iPhone Addressable Market

The iPhone is a severely constrained product. We’re used to thinking that it’s production constrained—and it is, but it’s also distribution constrained. It has a business model that is almost completely dependent on operator subsidy. Few end users pay the $650 average price that Apple obtains and that price point has held for a remarkably long time. This price point is largely invisible to the user.

In this regard it’s very different from all the other products Apple sells. Historically, the company has preferred having its customers to also be its users and maintained a direct relationship with them, strengthening that relationship through its own retail channel for the last decade. Pricing is used by Apple as a signal to clearly illustrate value to the user and pricing is part of the communication about the product that Apple makes very explicit. This has been true for the iPod and Mac and is still true of the iPad. But this is not so for the iPhone. The entire marketing strategy for the iPhone (and hence the entire product concept itself) is “off message”.

Why is this?

Google vs. Samsung

Samsung’s recent success in mobile phones has been spectacular. It overtook Nokia for the top spot in overall unit sales. It went from having almost no smartphone sales to selling over 50 million units per quarter in a matter of two years.