A series of news stories last week revealed unexpected shakeups in the smartphone industry. BlackBerry, once the top enterprise smartphone provider, has seen its US market share plummet by more than 38 percent in recent years, while Samsung, which has competed aggressively for a piece of Apple’s market share, surpassed their rival for the first time in profits from handset sales last quarter.
Tech expert Karl Volkman of Chicago’s SRV Network, Inc, keeps a close eye on smartphone trends. He says the reversals have to do with the relatively short life cycle of technological breakthroughs. “Device makers always try to be at the forefront of consumer trends,” explains Volkman, “but even when they do manage to take over a niche, like BlackBerry did with the enterprise smartphone, other companies will eventually catch up and level the field. They have to constantly innovate or branch out into new sectors.”
This dynamic can catch suppliers off guard if they haven’t sufficiently reinvested in development and market research. In BlackBerry’s case, says Volkman, executives may have overestimated the loyalty of business users. “BlackBerry’s solid email and security features are no longer exclusive, and businesses are shopping around or introducing bring-your-own-device policies for employee phones. The focus is shifting away from work tasks, which most smartphones can now perform, and towards more consumer-styled devices that people enjoy using.” Coming in behind this trend, BlackBerry may not be able to reposition their brand in time.
Meanwhile Samsung, once primarily an electronics manufacturer for less consumer-driven industries, has researched and marketed extensively to develop a formidable smartphone brand that’s siphoning shares away from the iPhone. Apple was not fully prepared for such a direct challenge, says Volkman. “iPhones and iPads still run on microchip processors supplied by Samsung, which no other company is adequately prepared to manufacture. The two may be competing fiercely in court and at the retail level, but behind the scenes it appears that Apple is struggling to cut ties with its Korean supplier.”
In all, the situation reflects the high stakes of an industry in which companies must possess a deft foresight of consumer trends in order to stay relevant. “Having the right device, with the right mix of features, ready to go to market at the right moment is a very difficult feat,” says Volkman. “For a time, Apple made it look easy, but ultimately we’re seeing that this market waits for no one.”
Karl Volkman is the Chief Technology Officer of SRV Network, Inc. in Chicago, Illinois, and an IT Professional with over 30 years of experience.
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