What NOT to look out for in 2009

The smart phone market in 2009 won’t be the realm of solely Research in Motion Ltd. and Apple Inc., as additional handset vendors grab a share with the launch of their own products, according to Oyster Bay, N.Y.-based ABI Research Inc.

While the BlackBerry and iPhone have been the dominant players in the smart phone segment of the handset market, Tier 2 players like Samsung, HTC, and LG, and even Tier 3 players like Huawei will roll out products as well, the whitepaper predicted. And, smart phones will be positioned for mid-tier segments of emerging markets, as well as the developed world, it continued.

“The smart phone market will increase to be a larger portion of the overall handset market,” Kevin Burden, director of mobile devices with ABI Research, told ComputerWorld Canada.

The whitepaper, entitled What’s NOT going to happen in 2009, takes a somewhat unconventional approach to trend predictions in the coming year by discussing what it expects to not transpire and why. Besides the mobile market, the report touches on topics like Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), telematics, wireless connectivity, and the digital home.

While the “bright spot,” according to Burden, in the handset market will be the smart phone segment, another prediction is the overall global market won’t grow in 2009. Handset shipments are expected to not surpass those of 2008 with only 1.1 to 1.2 billion devices shipped next year, compared to 1.2 billion this year. That’s almost a five per cent decline, ABI Research predicts, and the first time global handset shipments will suffer a decline.

While it’s true that consumers will likely hold back on purchasing new handsets, Burden said, in the enterprise, IT departments will probably continue – as it has done for some time now – to pay for employees’ service plans but not for the actual device. The device, he said, is typically the responsibility of the user, but it makes sense for the service plan to be slated as a business expense.

“With that in mind, what we’re more likely to see is a little bit more longevity with mobile phones. People might be keeping them a lot longer,” said Burden.

Almost every major handset manufacturer – Nokia, Research in Motion, Sony Ericsson, HTC, Motorola – has revised its estimates downward, said Burden, “so they’re all hedging their bets on what 2009 is going to look like.”

In the area of mobile marketing, 2009 won’t be when it will take off, according to the report, as advertising professionals have yet to really embrace the platform, complaining of inconsistent metrics and lack of mass reach. And the economy isn’t helping, said Burden: “It’s really just about economic conditions for marketing and where advertisers want to put their money.”

RFID investments won’t stop in 2009, according to ABI Research. RFID technology can have a good effect on a business’ bottom line, particularly in uncertain economic times, the report continued.

“One of the key advantages of RFID is the increased visibility that it provides in a supply chain environment, which can certainly help improve operational efficiencies and provide some significant value proposition,” Michael Liard, research director for RFID & contactless with ABI Research, told ComputerWorld Canada.

And, a little investment in RFID can go a long way, said Liard, because the technology is “really keen on solving some of those core business challenges and providing actionable information through the RFID data that is collected.”

Retail supply chains will certainly benefit from keeping shelves stocked using RFID considering businesses will be fighting for that consumer dollar, however, other segments like manufacturing, aerospace and defense, cargo tracking and security will also benefit from the technology.

Awareness of RFID and its benefits, said Liard, is at its highest and “continues to climb.” Moreover, RFID standards are where they need to be, and price points are at a comfortable level such that enterprises won’t shy away from it. “Now, it’s about the use case and business value of RFID,” he said.

The challenge, however, is that supply chain communities are “hyper-competitive,” said Liard, and typically prefer to keep their return on investment successes “pretty close to the vest.” But the industry can engage in creative ways to talk about supply chain success “without disclosing nitty-gritty details of certain ROI scenarios,” he said.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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