Dealing with the ‘Disruptors’: Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft/Skype and Amazon (Updated Extract)

Executive Summary (Extract)

This report analyses the strategies behind the success of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Skype, before going on to consider the key risks they face and how telcos and their partners should deal with these highly-disruptive Internet giants.

As the global economy increasingly goes digital, these five companies are using the Internet to create global brands with much broader followings than those of the traditional telecoms elite, such as Vodafone, AT&T and Nokia. However, the five have markedly different business models that offer important insights into how to create world-beating companies in the digital economy:

  • Amazon: Amazon’s business-to-business Marketplace and Cloud offerings are text-book examples of how to repurpose assets and infrastructure developed to serve consumers to open up new upstream markets. As the digital economy goes mobile, Amazon’s highly-efficient two-sided commerce platform is enabling it to compete effectively with rivals that control the leading smartphone and tablet platforms – Apple and Google.
  • Apple: Apple has demonstrated that, with enough vision and staying power, an individual company can single-handedly build an entire ecosystem. By combining intuitive and very desirable products, with a highly-standardised platform for software developers, Apple has managed to create an overall customer experience that is significantly better than that offered by more open ecosystems. But Apple’s strategy depends heavily on it continuing to produce the very best devices on the market, which will be difficult to sustain over the long-term.
  • Facebook: A compelling example of how to build a business on network effects. It took Facebook four years of hard work to reach a tipping point of 100 million users, but the social networking service has been growing easily and rapidly ever since. Facebook has the potential to attract 1.4 billion users worldwide, but only if it continues to sidestep rising privacy concerns, consumer fatigue or a sudden shift to a more fashionable service.
  • Google: The search giant’s virtuous circle keeps on spinning to great effect – Google develops scores of free, and often-compelling, Internet services, software platforms and apps, which attract consumers and advertisers, enabling it to create yet more free services. But Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility risks destabilising the Android ecosystem on which a big chunk of its future growth depends.
  • Skype: Like Facebook and Google, Skype sought users first and revenues second. By creating a low-cost, yet feature-rich, product, Skype has attracted more than 660 million users and created sufficient strategic value to persuade Microsoft to hand over $8.5bn. Skype’s share of telephony traffic is rising inexorably, but Google and Apple may go to great lengths to prevent a Microsoft asset gaining a dominant position in peer-to-peer communications.

The strategic challenge

There is a clear and growing risk that consumers’ fixation on the products and services provided by the five leading disruptors could leave telcos providing commoditised connectivity and struggling to make a respectable return on their massive investment in network infrastructure and spectrum.

In developed countries, telcos’ longstanding cash-cows – mobile voice calls and SMS – are already being undermined by Internet-based alternatives offered by Skype, Google, Facebook and others. Competition from these services could see telcos lose as much as one third of their messaging and voice revenues within five years (see Figure 1) based on projections from our global survey, carried out in September 2011.

Figure 1 – The potential combined impact of the disruptors on telcos’ core services

Impact of Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft/Skype, Amaxon on telco services

Source: Telco 2.0 online survey, September 2011, 301 respondents

Moreover, most individual telcos lack the scale and the software savvy to compete effectively in other key emerging mobile Internet segments, such as local search, location-based services, digital content, apps distribution/retailing and social-networking.

The challenge for telecoms and media companies is to figure out how to deal with the Internet giants in a strategic manner that both protects their core revenues and enables them to expand into new markets. Realistically, that means a complex, and sometimes nuanced, co-opetition strategy, which we characterise as the “Great Game”.

In Figure 3 below, we’ve mapped the players’ roles and objectives against the markets they operate in, giving an indication of the potential market revenue at stake, and telcos’ generic strategies.

Figure 3- The Great Game – Positions, Roles and Strategies

The Great Game - Telcos, Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, Skype/Microsoft

Our in-depth analysis, presented in this report, describes the ‘Great Game’ and the strategies that we recommend telcos and others can adopt in summary and in detail. [END OF FIRST EXTRACT]

Report contents

  • Executive Summary [5 pages – including partial extract above]
  • Key Recommendations for telcos and others [20 pages]
  • Introduction [10 pages – including further extract below]


The report then contains c.50 page sections with detailed analysis of objectives, business model, strategy, and options for co-opetition for:

  • Google
  • Apple
  • Facebook
  • Microsoft/Skype
  • Amazon

Followed by:

  • Conclusions and recommendations [10 pages]
  • Index

The report includes 124 charts and tables.

The rest of this page comprises an extract from the report’s introduction, covering the ‘new world order’, investor views, the impact of disruptors on telcos, and how telcos are currently fighting back (including pricing, RCS and WAC), and further details of the report’s contents. 

 

Introduction

The new world order

The onward march of the Internet into daily life, aided and abetted by the phenomenal demand for smartphones since the launch of the first iPhone in 2007, has created a new world order in the telecoms, media and technology (TMT) industry.

Apple, Google and Facebook are making their way to the top of that order, pushing aside some of the world’s biggest telcos, equipment makers and media companies. This trio, together with Amazon and Skype (soon to be a unit of Microsoft), are fundamentally changing consumers’ behaviour and dismantling longstanding TMT value chains, while opening up new markets and building new ecosystems.

Supported by hundreds of thousands of software developers, Apple, Google and Facebook’s platforms are fuelling innovation in consumer and, increasingly, business services on both the fixed and mobile Internet. Amazon has set the benchmark for online retailing and cloud computing services, while Skype is reinventing telephony, using IP technology to provide compelling new functionality and features, as well as low-cost calls.

On their current trajectory, these five companies are set to suck much of the value out of the telecoms services market, substituting relatively expensive and traditional voice and messaging services with low-cost, feature-rich alternatives and leaving telcos simply providing data connectivity. At the same time, Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook have become major conduits for software applications, games, music and other digital content, rewriting the rules of engagement for the media industry.

In a Telco2.0 online survey of industry executives conducted in September 2011, respondents said they expect Apple, Google, Facebook and Skype together to have a major impact on telcos’ voice and messaging revenues in the next three to five years . Although these declines will be partially compensated for by rising revenues from mobile data services, the respondents in the survey anticipate that telcos will see a major rise in data carriage costs (see Figure 1 – The potential combined impact of the disruptors on telcos’ core services).

In essence, we consider Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Skype-Microsoft to be the most disruptive players in the TMT ecosystem right now and, to keep this report manageable, we have focused on these five giants. Still, we acknowledge that other companies, such as RIM, Twitter and Baidu, are also shaping consumers’ online behaviour and we will cover these players in more depth in future research.

The Internet is, of course, evolving rapidly and we fully expect new disruptors to emerge, taking advantage of the so-called Social, Local, Mobile (SoLoMo) forces, sweeping through the TMT landscape. At the same time, the big five will surely disrupt each other. Google is increasingly in head-to-head competition with Facebook, as well as Microsoft, in the online advertising market, while squaring up to Apple and Microsoft in the smartphone platform segment. In the digital entertainment space, Amazon and Google are trying to challenge Apple’s supremacy, while also attacking the cloud services market.

Investor trust

Unlike telcos, the disruptors are generally growing quickly and are under little, or no, pressure from shareholders to pay dividends. That means they can accumulate large war chests and reinvest their profits in new staff, R&D, more data centres and acquisitions without any major constraints. Investors’ confidence and trust enables the disruptors to spend money freely, keep innovating and outflank dividend-paying telcos, media companies and telecoms equipment suppliers.

By contrast, investors generally don’t expect telcos to reinvest all their profits in their businesses, as they don’t believe telcos can earn a sufficiently high return on capital. Figure 16 shows the dividend yields of the leading telcos (marked in blue). Of the disruptors, only Microsoft (marked in green) pays a dividend to shareholders.

Figure 16: Investors expect dividends, not growth, from telcos

Figure 1 Chart Google Apple Facebook Microsoft Skype Amazon Sep 2011 Telco 2.0

Source: Google Finance 2/9/2011

The top telcos’ turnover and net income is comparable, or superior, to that of the leading disruptors, but this isn’t reflected in their respective market capitalisations. AT&T’s turnover is approximately four times that of Google and its net income twice as great, yet their market cap is similar. Even accounting for their different capital structures, investors clearly expect Google to grow much faster than AT&T and syphon off more of the value in the TMT sector.

More broadly, the disparity in the market value between the leading disruptors and the leading telcos’ market capitalisations suggest that investors expect Apple, Microsoft and Google’s revenues and profits to keep rising, while they believe telcos’ will be stable or go into decline. Figure 17 shows how the market capitalisation of the disruptors (marked in green) compares with that of the most valuable telcos (marked in blue) at the beginning of September 2011.

Figure 17: Investors value the disruptors highly

Figure 2 Chart Google Apple Facebook Microsoft Skype Amazon Market Capitalisation Sep 2011 Telco 2.0

Source: Google Finance 2/9/2011 (Facebook valued at Facebook $66bn based on IPG sale in August 2011)

Impact of disruptors on telcos

It has taken longer than many commentators expected, but Internet-based messaging and social networking services are finally eroding telcos’ SMS revenues in developed markets. KPN, for example, has admitted that smartphones, equipped with data communications apps (and Whatsapp in particular), are impacting its voice and SMS revenues in its consumer wireless business in its home market of The Netherlands (see Figure 18). Reporting its Q2 2011 results, KPN said that changing consumer behaviour cut its consumer wireless service revenues in Holland by 2% year-on-year.

Figure 18: KPN reveals falling SMS usage

Figure 3 Chart Google Apple Facebook Microsoft Skype Amazon KPN Trends Sep 2011 Telco 2.0

Source: KPN Q2 results

In the second quarter, Vodafone also reported a fall in messaging revenue in Spain and southern Africa, while Orange saw its average revenue per user from data and SMS services fall in Poland.

How telcos are fighting back

Big bundles

Carefully-designed bundles are the most common tactic telcos are using to try and protect their voice and messaging business. Most postpaid monthly contracts now come with hundreds of SMS messages and voice minutes, along with a limited volume of data, bundled into the overall tariff package. This mix encourages consumers to keep using the telcos’ voice and SMS services, which they are paying for anyway, rather than having Skype or another VOIP service soak up their precious data allowance.

To further deter usage of VOIP services, KPN and some other telcos are also creating tiered data tariffs offering different throughput speeds. The lower-priced tariffs tend to have slow uplink speeds, making them unsuitable for VOIP (see Figure 19 below). If consumers want to use VOIP, they will need to purchase a higher-priced data tariff, earning the telco back the lost voice revenue.

Figure 19: How KPN is trying to defend its revenues

Figure 4 Chart Google Apple Facebook Microsoft Skype Amazon KPN Defence Sep 2011 Telco 2.0

Source: KPN’s Q2 results presentation

Of course, such tactics can be undermined by competition – if one mobile operator in a market begins offering generous data-only tariffs, consumers may well gravitate towards that operator, forcing the others to adjust their tariff plans.

Moreover, bundling voice, SMS and data will generally only work for contract customers. Prepaid customers, who only want to pay for what they are use, are naturally charged for each minute of calls they make and each message they send. These customers, therefore, have a stronger financial incentive to find a free WiFi network and use that to send messages via Facebook or make calls via Skype.

The Rich Communications Suite (RCS)

To fend off the threat posed by Skype, Facebook, Google and Apple’s multimedia communications services, telcos are also trying to improve their own voice and messaging offerings. Overseen by mobile operator trade association the GSMA, the Rich Communications Suite is a set of standards and protocols designed to enable mobile phones to exchange presence information, instant messages, live video footage and files across any mobile network.

In an echo of social networks, the GSMA says RCS will enable consumers to create their own personal community and share content in real time using their mobile device.

From a technical perspective, RCS uses the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) to manage presence information and relay real-time information to the consumer about which service features they can use with a specific contact. The actual RCS services are carried over an IP-Multimedia Subsystem (IMS), which telcos are using to support a shift to all-IP fixed and mobile networks.

Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telecom Italia, Telefonica and Vodafone have publically committed to deploy RCS services, indicating that the concept has momentum in Europe, in particular. The GSMA says that interoperable RCS services will initially be launched by these operators in Spain, Germany, France and Italy in late 2011 and 2012. [NB We’ll be discussing RCSe with some of the operators at our EMEA event in London in November 2011.]

In theory, at least, RCS will have some advantages over many of the communications services offered by the disruptors. Firstly, it will be interoperable across networks, so you’ll be able to reach people using different service providers. Secondly, the GSMA says RCS service features will be automatically available on mobile devices from late 2011 without the need to download and install software or create an account (by contrast, Apple’s iMessage service, for example, will only be installed on Apple devices).

But questions remain over whether RCS devices will arrive in commercial quantities fast enough, whether RCS services will be priced in an attractive way and will be packaged and marketed effectively. Moreover, it isn’t yet clear whether IMS will be able to handle the huge signalling load that would arise from widespread usage of RCS.

Internet messaging protocols, such as XMPP, require the data channel to remain active continuously. Tearing down and reconnecting generates lots of signalling traffic, but the alternative – maintaining a packet data session – will quickly drain the device’s battery.
By 2012, Facebook and Skype may be even more entrenched than they are today and their fans may see no need to use telcos’ RCS services.

Competing head-on

Some of the largest mobile operators have tried, and mostly failed, to take on the disruptors at their own game. Vodafone 360, for example, was Vodafone’s much-promoted, but ultimately, unsuccessful €500 million attempt to insert itself between its customers and social networking and messaging services from the likes of Facebook, Windows Live, Google and Twitter.

As well as aggregating contacts and feeds from several social networks, Vodafone 360 also served as a gateway to the telco’s app and music store. But most Vodafone customers didn’t appear to see the need to have an aggregator sit between them and their Facebook feed. During 2011, the service was stripped back to be just the app and music store. In essence, Vodafone 360 didn’t add enough value to what the disruptors are already offering. We understand, from discussions with executives at Vodafone, that the service is now being mothballed.

A small number of large telcos, mostly in emerging markets where smartphones are not yet commonplace, have successfully built up a portfolio of value-added consumer services that go far beyond voice and messaging. One of the best examples is China Mobile, which claims more than 82 million users for its Fetion instant messaging service, for example (see Figure 20 – China Mobile’s Internet Services).

Figure 20 – China Mobile’s Internet Services

China Mobile Services, Google, Apple, Facebook Report, Telco 2.0

Source: China Mobile’s Q2 2011 results

However, it remains to be seen whether China Mobile will be able to continue to attract so many customers for its (mostly paid-for) Internet services once smartphones with full web access go mass-market in China, making it easier for consumers to access third-parties’ services, such as the popular QQ social network.

Some telcos have tried to compete with the disruptors by buying innovative start-ups. A good example is Telefonica’s acquisition of VOIP provider Jajah for US$207 million in January 2010. Telefonica has since used Jajah’s systems and expertise to launch low-cost international calling services in competition with Skype and companies offering calling cards. Telefonica expects Jajah’s products to generate $280 million of revenue in 2011, primarily from low-cost international calls offered by its German and UK mobile businesses, according to a report in the FT.

The Wholesale Applications Community (WAC)

Concerned about their growing dependence on the leading smartphone platforms, such as Android and Apple’s iOS, many of the world’s leading telcos have banded together to form the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC).

WAC’s goal is to create a platform developers can use to create apps that will run across different device operating systems, while tapping the capabilities of telcos’ networks and messaging and billing systems.

At the Mobile World Congress in February 2011, WAC said that China Mobile, MTS, Orange, Smart, Telefónica, Telenor, Verizon and Vodafone are “connected to the WAC platform”, while adding that Samsung and LG will ensure “that all devices produced by the two companies that are capable of supporting the WAC runtime will do so.”

It also announced the availability of the WAC 2.0 specification, which supports HTML5 web applications, while WAC 3.0, which is designed to enable developers to tap network assets, such as in-app billing and user authentication, is scheduled to be available in September 2011.

Ericsson, the leading supplier of mobile networks, is a particularly active supporter of WAC, which also counts leading Alcatel-Lucent, Huawei, LG Electronics, Qualcomm, Research in Motion, Samsung and ZTE, among its members.

In theory, at least, apps developers should also throw their weight behind WAC, which promises the so far unrealised dream of “write once, run anywhere.” But, in reality, games developers, in particular, will probably still want to build specific apps for specific platforms, to give their software a performance and functionality edge over rivals.

Still, the ultimate success or failure of WAC will likely depend on how enthusiastically Apple and Google, in particular, embrace HTML5 and actively support it in their respective smartphone platforms. We discuss this question further in the Apple and Google chapters of this report.

Summarising current telcos’ response to disruptors

 

Telcos, and their close allies in the equipment market, are clearly alert to the threat posed by the major disruptors, but they have yet to develop a comprehensive game plan that will enable them to protect their voice and messaging revenue, while expanding into new markets.

Collective activities, such as RCS and WAC, are certainly necessary and worthwhile, but are not enough. Telcos, and companies across the broader TMT ecosystem, need to also adapt their individual strategies to the rise of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Skype-Microsoft. This report is designed to help them do that.

[END OF EXTRACT]

 

RIM: R.I.P. or ‘Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated’?

Summary: RIM’s shares have plummeted in value over the last four months, prompting an eruption of finger-pointing in the media and speculation of its demise or acquisition. In this analysis we examine whether the doom-mongers are right and what RIM’s recovery strategy might be. (July 2011, Executive Briefing Service)

Apple iCloud logo in analysis of impact of iCloud/iOS on digital ecosystem

  Read in Full (Members only)    Buy This Report    To Subscribe

Below is an extract from this 12 page Telco 2.0 Report that can be downloaded in full in PDF format by members of the Telco 2.0 Executive Briefing service here. Non-members can buy a Single User license for this report online here for £295 (+VAT) or subscribe here. For multiple user licenses or other enquiries please email contact@telco2.net or call +44 (0) 207 247 5003.

To share this article, please click:



Background – RIM’s share price disaster

RIM’s shares have plummeted in value over the last four months, prompting an eruption of finger-pointing in the media and speculation of its demise or acquisition. In this analysis we examine whether the doom-mongers are right and what RIM’s recovery strategy might be.

‘Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated’ – US writer Mark Twain, 1907, when he failed to return to New York City as scheduled and The New York Times speculated that he might have been “lost at sea.”

Figure 1 – RIM has obviously underperformed Apple, but incredibly it has also underperformed Nokia.

RIM, Apple, Nokia Share Prices July 2011 Telco 2.0

With its iconic Blackberry devices, RIM led the way in the mobile messaging era – first in corporate and then in consumer markets. But the transition to the mobile web has seen it surpassed by Apple and Google in consumer developed markets. In this respect RIM faces the same challenge as Nokia. And yet, despite facing the same challenge, RIM and Nokia have taken completely different strategic options for their future. When Nokia announced its partnership with Microsoft it pointedly talked about the creation of the third platform for the mobile web alongside Apple and Google – Nokia effectively discounted RIM from the game.

Previous Telco 2.0 analysis on RIM includes: RIM: how does the BlackBerry fit with Telco 2.0 strategies?; Mobile Software Platforms: Rapid Consolidation Forecast; and Nokia’s Strange Services Strategy – Lessons from Apple iPhone and RIM.

Current Position – on the surface, OK, but…

At first glance, RIM looks in a healthy position and its recent results show that both handset shipments (13.2m vs 11.2m) and revenues (US$4.9bn vs US$4.2bn) were up on the previous year. RIM is making reasonable profits (US$695m) and has a healthy cash position (US$2.9bn). But under the hood, life is not looking as rosy.

Profits: Under Pressure

RIM’s accounts show that its absolute profits are declining as growth in R&D and S&M costs are exceeding the slowing growth in revenues.

Figure 2 – RIM’s Profits are down against growth in R&D and S&M costs

RIM Profits, R&D Costs, Sales and Marketing Costs, July 2011 Telco 2.0

Of course, rising R&D and S&M costs may ultimately result in new revenues, although at present the effects of this spending are not yet evident in overall performance.

Revenues: Squeezed out of Key Markets

RIM’s revenues are dropping in key markets, particularly the USA, and its growth in revenues is coming from emerging markets.

Figure 3 – RIM’s Changing Market Revenues

Table of RIM Worldwide Sources of Revenue and changes, July 2011, Telco 2.0

Market Share: Declining

RIM’s share of the overall smartphone market is declining.

Figure 4 – RIM’s Declining Worldwide Market Share

Table of RIM, Apple, Nokia, Android Smartphone Market Share May 2011, Telco 2.0 (Gartner)

Core Product Advantages: Eroded

Core product advantages (e.g. Blackberry Messenger) are being eroded and surpassed as the competition (e.g. Apple iMessage) improves.

New Products: Late

New devices such as the updated Bold 9900 have missed planned release dates.

To read the rest of this report, including…

  • Outlook – a time of transition?
  • QNX & TAT – RIM’s saviours?
  • Playbook – A disappointing start
  • Coming: the Android / Emerging Market Crunch
  • Corporate Strength
  • Telco 2.0 Conclusions & Recommendations – Is there a recovery strategy?

Members of the Telco 2.0 Executive Briefing Subscription Service can download the full 14 page report in PDF format here. Non-Members, please see here for how to subscribe, here to buy a single user license for £295, or for multi-user licenses and any other enquiries please email contact@telco2.net or call +44 (0) 207 247 5003.

Companies, technologies and products referenced: 7digital, Adobe Flash, Amazon, Android, Apple, Blackberry, BlackberryOS 8, Bold 9900, Carphone Warehouse, Google, Huawei, iMessage, iPad, iPhone, Microsoft, Nokia, Phones4U, Playbook, QNX Software Systems, RIM, The Astonishing Tribe (TAT).

 

 

Strategy 2.0: What Skype + Microsoft means for telcos

Summary: in theory, Microsoft and Skype have the resources, the brands, the customer base and the know-how to shape the future of telecoms and become a strategic counterweight to Apple and Google. Can they do it – and what should telcos’ strategy be? (June 2011, Executive Briefing Service, Dealing with Disruption Stream).

Microsoft Skype Logo Image Medium


This page contains an excerpt from the report, plus detailed contents, figures and tables, and a summary of the companies, products, technologies and issues covered.

 

    Read in Full (Members only)    Buy This Report    To Subscribe

(The 35 page PDF format report is available in full to Members of the Telco 2.0 Executive Briefing Service and the Telco 2.0 Dealing with Disruption Stream here. Non-members can buy a Single User license for this report online here for £995 (+VAT) or subscribe here. For multiple user licenses or other enquiries please email contact@telco2.net or call +44 (0) 207 247 5003.)

To share this article easily, please click:



Introduction: Skype, the Original ‘Voice 2.0’

Everyone knows Skype as the original Voice 2.0 company – providing free phone calls, free video, status updates, all delivered using an innovative peer-to-peer architecture, and with the unique selling point of VoIP that just worked. This report describes its business model, technology strategy, its acquisition by Microsoft, and the consequences for the telecoms industry.

A little history

Founded in 2003 by Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström, Skype was acquired by eBay in 2005 for $2.6bn. eBay ownership was a period of stagnation – although eBay also owns PayPal, it only made half-hearted efforts to integrate the two. In November 2009, eBay sold 65% of Skype to an investor group led by Silver Lake for approximately $1.9bn in cash, valuing Skype at $2.75bn.

With Skype preparing for an IPO, Microsoft announced in May 2011 that it had agreed to buy the company for $8.5bn, giving the investor group a massive return and ensuring future potentially-disruptive start-ups will also attract plenty of funding. Many commentators have suggested that Microsoft is paying too much for the VOIP company, although the price-earnings ratio is actually no higher than that of Cisco’s acquisition of WebEx. So, what exactly is Microsoft getting for its billions? Let’s take a closer look.

A Dive into Skype’s Accounts

Microsoft has acquired what is essentially a global telephony company with 663 million registered users and very significant gross profitability. Skype contributed more net new minutes of international voice than the rest of the industry put together in 2010, according to Telegeography. Skype has never struggled to achieve growth, but its profitability has often been criticised, as has its ability to generate growth in ARPU. The following chart (figure 1) summarises Skype’s operational key performance indicators (KPIs) since 2006.

Figure 1: Skype’s KPIs: users, usage, and ARPU

Telco 2.0 Skype KPIs Users and ARPU June 2011 Graph Chart v1

Source: Skype’s S-1, May 2011

Questions have been raised about Skype’s performance in converting registered or even active users into paying users. This is critical, as ARPU is relatively flat. However, a monthly ARPU for paying users of $8 would be considered very reasonable for an emerging-market GSM operator and such an operator would tie up far more capital than Skype does. As all Skype users contribute to the system’s peer-to-peer (P2P) infrastructure, the marginal cost of serving non-paying users is essentially nothing.

Another way of looking at the KPIs is to consider their growth rates, as we have done in the following chart (figure 2). Although the growth of paying users is nowhere near as fast as that of free minutes of use, 40% growth per annum in revenue-generating subscribers is still very impressive.

Figure 2: Growth rates of Skype KPIs.

Telco 2.0 Skype KPIs Growth June 2011 Graph Chart

Source: Skype’s S-1, May 2011

In fact, there is very little wrong with Skype at the operating level. The following chart (figure 3) shows that, if we consider the primary challenge for Skype to be converting free users into paying users, it is actually doing rather well. Revenue and EBITDA are advancing and margins are holding up well.

Figure 3: Revenue and EBITDA growth is strong

Telco 2.0 Skype KPIs 5 Years Revenue and EBITDA June 2011 Graph Chart

Source: Skype S-1, May 2011

With 509 million active users available for conversion, ARPU may not be that relevant – just converting users of the free service into paying users has so far provided strong growth in gross profits and could do for the foreseeable future.

Figure 4: Conversion of free users at steady ARPU drives gross profit.

Telco 2.0 Skype Gross Profits June 2011 Graph Chart

Source: Skype S-1, May 2011

Skype doesn’t make money on free calls (not even from advertising or customer analytics/insights, yet), and has to pay interconnection fees and operate some infrastructure in order to provide SkypeOut (calls to conventional telephone numbers, rather than other Skype clients), and SkypeIn (calls from the PSTN to Skype users).

Skype sceptics have argued that eventually termination charges will catch up with the company and destroy its profitability. It is true that most of Skype’s revenues are generated (over 80%) by SkypeOut call charges and that Skype’s cost of net revenue is dominated (over 60%) by the cost of terminating these calls. However, termination as a percentage of Skype’s cost of net revenue is falling and Skype’s gross margin is rising, as its enormous volume growth enables it to extract better bulk pricing from interconnect operators (see Figure 5).

To see Figure 5, the conclusion of our analysis of Skype’s finances, and…

  • Is Skype Accumulating “Technical Debt”?
  • Future Plans: The Core Business, The Enterprise & Facebook
  • Telcos and Skype
  • Enter Microsoft
  • Windows Phone 7: Relevant again? 
  • Microsoft’s other mobile allies: Nokia, RIM
  • How Microsoft will deploy Skype 
  • Developers, developers, developers
  • Key Risks and Questions: execution, regulatory, partners, advertisers & payments
  • Answers: How Telcos should deal with Skype…and Microsoft

…plus these additional figures & fables…

  • Figure 5: How Skype’s spending is changing
  • Figure 6: Why Skype is making a loss
  • Figure 7: Commoditisation is for everybody!
  • Figure 8: 3UK benefits from its deal with Skype
  • Figure 9: Skype’s Deals with Carriers
  • Figure 10: Skype is a good fit for many Microsoft products
  • Figure 11: A unifying Skype API is critical for integration into the Microsoft empire
  • Figure 12: Telco strategy options matrix

 

Members of the Telco 2.0 Executive Briefing Subscription Service and the Telco 2.0 Dealing with Disruption Stream can download the full 35 page report in PDF format here. Non-Members, please see here for how to subscribe, here to buy a single user license for for £995, or for multi-user licenses and any other enquiries please email contact@telco2.net or call +44 (0) 207 247 5003.

Organisations, products and people referenced in the report: 3UK, AdSense, Android, Apple, AT&T, Au, Avaya, Ben Horowitz, BlackBerry Messenger, Cisco, Dynamics CRM, EasyBits, eBay, Exchange Server, Facebook, Facetime, Google, Google Talk, Google Voice, GSMA, Happy Pipe, Hutchison, iOS, iPhone, Jajah, Janus Friis, KDDI Mobile, Kinect, KPN, Lync, Mango, Marchex, Microsoft, Microsoft-Nokia deal, MXit, MySpace, Niklas Zennström, Nokia, Ofcom, Office Live, Outlook, PayPal, PowerPoint, Qik, RIM, Silver Lake, Skype, SkypeConnect, SkypeIn, SkypeKit, SkypeOut, SkypePhone, Steve Ballmer, Telefonica, Teredo, Tony Jacobs, Tropo, Twitter, Verizon Wireless, Virgin, Visual Studio, WebEx, WhatsApp, Windows Mobile, Windows Phone 7, WP7, Xbox, X-Series.

Technologies referenced: GSM, HD voice, HTTP/S, IM, IMS MMTel, IP networks, IPv4, IPv6, LTE, Mobile, NAT, P2P, PSTN, RCS, SILK V3, SIP, SMS, SS7, super node, URI, video telephony, Voice 2.0, VoIP, XMPP.

Tablet Frenzy: Network Poison or Economic Palliative?

Summary: The success of the iPad2 has been seen by some as a sign of a paradigm shift in computing. With their theoretical appeal as a new portable medium for online video consumption could tablets have a significant impact on communications networks and economics? Here is Telco 2.0’s market outlook.

Below is an extract from this 18 page Telco 2.0 Analyst Note that can
be downloaded in full in PDF format by members of the Telco 2.0
Executive Briefing service using the links below.

                            Read in Full (Members only)        To Subscribe

‘Growing the Mobile Internet’ and ‘Fostering Vibrant Ecosystems: Lessons from Apple’ are also key session
themes at our upcoming ‘New Digital Economics’ Brainstorms (Palo Alto, 4-7 April and London, 11-13 May). Please use the links or email contact@telco2.net or call +44 (0) 207 247 5003 to find out more.

To share this article easily, please click:








Introduction: fearing the tablets’ effects?

The mobile device industry is currently awash with tablets. Catalysed by the iPad’s meteoric rise to prominence in 2010, the market has since been saturated with a broad range of similar devices such as Samsung’s Galaxy Tab. In early 2011, trade shows at CES in Las Vegas, and Mobile World Congress in Barcelona both saw the launch of countless Android-powered tablets, as well as others featuring RIM’s and HP’s own operating systems.

With the subsequent huge success and publicity of the iPad 2 launch (see iPad2: how Apple plans to dominate the ‘post PC era’), many in the technology industry are convinced that we are witnessing a new paradigm shift in computing. While the majority of debate has concerned itself with apps, content-publisher business models and the possible advent of the “post-PC era”, it is also worth stepping back and looking at the network-side implications of these new devices.

Some observers are expecting the advent of mobile-connected tablets to continue the assault on 3G and 4G network capacity, taking over where smartphones and laptops left off. Observing that tablets’ large screens are ideal for heavy-duty web and video consumption, there are certainly some doom-sayers predicting the imminent collapse of networks already suffering from congestion. For example, in July 2010, OpenWave’s CEO claimed that “There is no doubt that the iPad will be part of the data overload story when the wireless industry looks back in a few years time” . Even the FCC has used the potential tablet data threat in its efforts to gain additional spectrum rights for mobile broadband , saying “With the iPad pointing to even greater demand for mobile broadband on the horizon, we must ensure that network congestion doesn’t choke off a service that consumers clearly find so appealing or frustrate mobile broadband’s ability to keep us competitive in the global broadband economy.”

Other observers are more cautious. There are still some dissenters regarding the overall tablet story – will they really oust the netbook and laptop as the main mobile computing platforms? And even if they are game-changers, will they predominantly be used while connected to cellular networks, rather than WiFi?

While Telco 2.0 feels that tablets are indeed important in the medium term, we are concerned that 2011 may see the hype bubble pricked a bit, as the world’s gadget-enthusiast segment gets saturated before the mass-market really grasps what to do with a touchscreen device that isn’t pocketable. The rhetoric about the imminent death of the PC seems to fit poorly with data points such as Apple’s own rising laptop sales, paralleling the iPad’s growth.

The bitter pill of mobile data traffic

Telco 2.0 has talked about the mobile broadband “capacity crunch” and the challenging economics of 3G/4G networks on numerous occasions over the past few years. We have considered the role of offload, traffic management, two-sided approaches to “slicing and dicing” network capacity in both fixed and mobile domains, and the need for sensible pricing plans for mobile data. We have watched the explosion of smartphones and the typical data volumes grow to 100’s of megabytes per month per user – even 1GB+ for certain devices such as high-end Android phones.

In 2010, we identified a variety of new mobile broadband business models involving new device categories, evolution of the wholesaling/MVNO concept, and “priority connectivity” for certain applications, plus new non-subscription revenues from sponsored or third-party paid wireless data sessions in Mobile, Fixed and Wholesale Broadband Business Models. While all these are attractive, we also identified likely pricing pressure on mobile data plans – despite some offerings such as 3G dongle modem tariffs already being positioned often at too-low rates.

The net conclusion is that mobile capacity will need massive enhancement anyway – likely through a combination of both a move to more-efficient networks (HSPA+ and LTE, especially), and ways of moving to smaller cells and offload (WiFi and femtocells) – adding capacity by “densifying” the networks. All this is pretty much “baked in”, irrespective of the growth of additional new device categories.

Figure 1: Mobile networks need much more capacity, despite new revenue models

Global Mobile Broadband Access Revenues

Source: Telco 2.0 EMEA Brainstorm, April 2010

The last two years have seen increasing concern – and in some cases panic – among mobile operators about the effects of exploding data traffic on their networks. The emergence of tablets is adding to the sense of worry. Although some of the existing problems can be attributed to the extra signalling load, in other cases congestion is indeed being driven by sheer volumes of traffic, especially in “busy hours” or “busy cells”. For example, 4-10pm in regions with a lot of mobile laptop dongles tends to be a peak period. A growing shift to video traffic, driven by web TV streaming sites, social networks and adult content, has arisen as a particular point of concern. Various analyses have put video at 50-70% of total mobile data traffic already, consumed both on smartphones but also especially laptops with larger screens and batteries. Again, tablets are looked at as potential accelerators of this trend – with the vision of iPads being used to watch live TV via cellular networks while users are “out and about” a stereotypical fear.

Some operators have already tried to head off the problem with phones, with for example T-Mobile UK suggesting to its smartphone users that “If you want to download, stream and watch video clips, save that stuff for your home broadband.” as part of its fair-use policy. However, many recognise that much of the problem has been brought by operators on themselves – especially through the mis-selling and mis-pricing of laptop data plans as being direct substitutes for home DSL and cable broadband, which clearly cannot have the same restrictions on video.

Tablets are potentially something of a quandary for operators – as a new category, there is no pre-existing expectation about exactly how data plans should be priced and managed – and few clear points on how much traffic they might be expected to generate. But conversely, if tablets are to be truly mobilised products rather than just WiFi-centric nomadic ones, they need to be usable without arbitrary restrictions or off-putting contract pricing.

(A quick note on signalling traffic: at the moment, it seems unlikely that tablets are going to major generators of load in this regard. Unlike smartphones, they are not “always-on”, running background tasks over the cellular network, or creating massive problems at the radio level through “fast dormancy” for power control. Irrespective of the precise applications used, they are likely to be similar to laptops/dongles, being online for lengthier sessions rather than ultra-frequent “pings” of servers.)

To work out whether or not tablets are a genuine source of concern for operators, Telco 2.0 has developed a simple analytical framework, bringing together sales volumes, operators’ role, traffic demands, data plans and the means for mitigation of network congestion. The following sections discuss each of these in turn.

Figure 2: Assessing tablets’ impact on mobile data networks

Tablet Forecast Schematic

Source: Telco 2.0

Tablet demand

Telco 2.0 does not itself forecast shipments of specific computing product categories. However, we are in agreement that the overall tablet sector will grow strongly through 2011 and beyond, although we are slightly more bearish than some observers who proclaim “the death of the PC”, asserting that tablets will inevitably become the main portable computing format. Our view is that tablets will (largely) complement smartphones and notebooks, rather than massively substituting for either – although the smaller netbook PC format is more threatened. Research firm Disruptive Analysis has noted that typical tablet battery capacity – a proxy for processing or display, capability and therefore ability to “do stuff” – is mid-way between the two other device categories, reflecting a distinct role and market-space for tablets.

Figure 3: Device battery power diversity suggests different use cases for tablets, smartphones & laptops rather than outright substitution

Tablet, Smartphone, PC Battery Capaciity

Source: Telco 2.0, Disruptive Analysis

Depending on the exact definition of “tablet” (itself an imprecise term), around 17-20m devices shipped in 2010, of which about 15-16m were Apple iPads. Android-powered devices started making significant in-roads in Q4, gaining perhaps a 20% market share.

  • In January 2011, research firm IDC reported shipments of 17m tablets in 2010, forecasting 45m and 71m unit sales in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
  • Investment bank Goldman Sachs expects shipments of tablets such as the Apple iPad to more than double over the next year, going from 16m in 2010 to 35m in 2011. It expects 40% of that 35m to cannibalise PC shipments, with 20% cannibalising notebook sales and 80% cannibalising netbooks.
  • Research firm Ovum has forecast 150m tablet shipments in 2015
  • A more bullish prediction from iSuppli puts 2015 sales of tablets at 242m, although 39m of these will be full PCs in capability terms, masquerading in a tablet-style form-factor.
  • Apple is believed to have sold around one million iPad2’s on its opening weekend.

To read the rest of the article, including:

  • Telco 2.0’s Tablet Market Outlook for 2011 and 2015
  • Network Capacity Impact of Tablets
  • Forecast Global Traffic from tablets
  • Tablet Data Plan Pricing
  • Conclusion


…and the figures…

  • Figure 1: Mobile networks need much more capacity, despite new revenue models
  • Figure 2: Assessing tablets’ impact on mobile data networks
  • Figure 3: Device battery power diversity suggests different use cases for tablets, smartphones & laptops rather than outright substitution
  • Figure 4: High growth for tablets to 2015, but not all will be cellular-connected
  • Figure 5: Forecast global mobile data traffic from tablets, 2010-2015
  • Figure 6: Forecast mobile data traffic by device type, 2010-15 (Cisco VNI)
  • Figure 7: Selected mobile operator-supplied tablet 24-month contracts

Members of the Telco 2.0TM Executive Briefing Subscription Service can access and download a PDF of the full report here.
Non-Members, please see here for how to subscribe. Alternatively, please email
contact@telco2.net or call +44 (0) 207 247 5003 for further details.
‘Growing the Mobile Internet’ and ‘Lessons from Apple: Fostering vibrant content ecosystems’ are also featured at our AMERICAS and EMEA Executive Brainstorms and Best Practice Live! virtual events.

Full Article: Handsets – Demolition Derby

Summary: ‘Hyper-competition’ in the mobile handset market, particularly in ‘smartphones’, will drive growth in 2010, but also emaciate profits for the majority of manufacturers. Predicted winners, losers and other market consequences.

This is a Guest Note from Arete Research, a Telco 2.0™ partner specialising in investment analysis.Arete Members can download a PDF of this Note here.

The views in this article are not intended to constitute investment advice from Telco 2.0™ or STL Partners. We are reprinting Arete’s Analysis to give our customers some additional insight into how some Investors see the Telecoms Market.

Handsets: Demolition Derby

demo_derby_01_cars.jpg

Arete’s last annual look at global handset markets (Handsets: Wipe-Out!, Oct. ’08) predicted every vendor would see margins fall by ~500bps. This happened: overall industry profitability dropped, as did industry sales. Now everyone is revving their engines with vastly improved product portfolios for 2010. Even with 15% unit and sales growth in ’10, we see the industry entering a phase of desperate “hyper-competition.” Smartphone vendors (Apple, RIMM, Palm, HTC) should grab $15bn of the $23bn increase in industry sales.

Longer term, the handset space is evolving into a split between partly commoditised hardware and high margin software and services. Managements face a classic moral hazard problem, incentivised to gain share rather than preserve capital. Each vendor sees 2010 as “their year.” Individually rational strategies are collectively insane: the question is who has deep enough pockets to keep their vehicles in one piece.
Revving the Engines. Every vendor is making huge technology leaps in 2010: high end devices will have 64/128GBs of NAND, 8-12Mpx cameras, OLED nHD capacitive touch displays, and more features than consumers can use. Smartphones should rise 50% to 304m units (while feature phones drop 21% in units). As chipmakers support sub-$200 complete device solutions, we see a race to the bottom in smartphone pricing.

Software Smash-Up. The rush of OEMs into Android will bring differentiation issues (as Symbian faced). Beyond Apple, every software platform faces serious issues, while operators will use “open” platforms to develop their own UIs (360, OPhone, myFaves, etc.). Rising software costs will force some OEMs to adopt a PC-ODM business model, while higher-margin models of RIM and Nokia are most at risk.

Finally, the Asian Invasion. Samsung, HTC and LGE now have 30% ’09E share, with ZTE, Huawei, MTEK customers and PC ODMs all joining the fray. All seek 20%+ growth. Motorola and SonyEricsson are being forced to shrink footprint, and shift risk to ODM partners. Nokia already has an Asian cost base, but lacks new high-end devices outside its emerging markets franchise. Apple looks set to claim 40% of industry profits in ’10, as other OEMs fight a brutal war of attrition, egged on by buoyant demand for fresh products at record low prices.

demo_derb-table1.jpg


Forget Defensive Driving

Our thesis for 2010 is as follows: unit volumes will rebound with 15% growth, with highly competitive pricing to keep volumes flowing. This will be driven by highly attractive devices at previously unimaginably low prices. Industry sales will also rise 15%, by $23bn, but half of the extra sales ($11bn) will be taken by Apple. Industry margins will remain under pressure from pricing and rising BoM costs. Every traditional OEM, smartphone pure-play, and new entrant are following individually rational strategies: improve portfolios, promise the moon to operators, and price to gain share. Those that fail to secure range planning slots at leading operators will develop other channels to market. Collectively, the industry is entering a period of desperation and dangerous self-belief. There are few incentives to exercise restraint for the likes of Dell (led by ex-Motorola management), Acer (the consistent PC winner at the low-end), Huawei and ZTE (which view devices as complementary to infrastructure offerings) or Samsung (where rising device units help improve utilisation of its memory and display fabs). Motorola and SonyEricsson must promote themselves actively, just to find sustainable business models on 4% share each.

Table 2 shows industry value; adjusted for the impact of Apple, it shows a continuous 4-5% decline in ASPs (though currencies also play a role). The challenge for mainstream OEMs (Nokia, Samsung, LGE, etc.) is to win back customers now exhibiting high loyalty after switching to iPhone or Blackberry. Excluding gains by Apple and RIM, industry sales are on track to fall 13% in ’09. Apple, RIM, Palm and HTC will collectively account for $15bn of our forecast incremental $23bn in industry sales in ’10E.

dem0_derby-table2.jpg

Within this base, we see smartphones rising from 162m units in ’08 (13% of the total) to 304m units, or 23% of total ’10E shipments. At the same time, featurephone/mid-range units will drop by 21% in ’09 and 21% again in ’10.

Key Products for 2010

  • Both SonyEricsson and LGE have innovative Android models coming in 1H10, LG with distinctive designs and gesture input, and a new SonyEricsson UI and messaging method.
  • Nokia’s roadmap features slimmer form factors, but a range of capacitive touch models will not come until 2H10. It will update the popular 6300/6700 series with a S40 touch device in 1H10.
  • Samsung has its usual vast array of product, and plans for 100m touch models in ’10 underlining the extent of their form factor transition.
  • Motorola’s line-up will focus on operator variants, with a lead device shipping in 2Q10, but a number of operators think Motorola lacks distinctive designs and see little need for Blur.
  • RIM will not change its current form factor approach until 2H10, when it moves to a new software platform to enhance its traditional QWERTY base. It faces commercial challenges around activation and services fees with carrier partners.
  • We expect Apple to reach lower price points and also launch CDMA-based iPhones in ’10.
  • HTC must also reduce its costs to address mid-range prices.
  • Every vendor plans to widen its portfolio with several “hero” models in 2010; if anything the window to hype any single launch is narrowing.

Main Trends

Discussions with a wide range of operators, vendors and chipmakers about 2010 device roadmaps point to an explosion of attractive products – a few trends stand out:

  • Operators are now deeply engaging Chinese vendors. Huawei and ZTE have Android devices coming, while TCL and Taiwanese ODMs offer low-end devices. Chipmakers confirm Android devices will drop under $100 BoM levels by YE10. This will pressure both prices and margins. The value chain is shifting rapidly to more compute-intensive devices, with Qualcomm and others enabling Asian ODMs to be active in new PC segments with smartphone-like features (touch, Adobe Flash, 3G connectivity, etc.) in large-screen form factors, to leverage their LCD base.
  • All devices will become “smartphones.” Samsung and Nokia are opening up APIs for mass market phones. The smartphone tag (vs. dumb ones) will be applied to devices of all sorts, the way we formerly spoke of handsets. By the end of 2010, all devices (except basic pre-paid models) will be customisable with popular applications (e.g., search, social networking, IM, etc.) even if they lack hardware for video content (i.e., memory and codecs) or mapping (GPS chipsets). Open OS devices should rise 50% to 304m units, 23% of the total market.
  • Pure play smartphone vendors (RIMM, HTC, Palm) must transition business models to emulate Apple (i.e., linking devices with services and content). Launching lower-cost versions of popular models (RIMM’s 8520, HTC’s Tattoo, Palm’s Pixi) implicitly recognises how crowded the high-end ($400+) is becoming. This will get worse as Motorola and SonyEricsson seek to re-invent themselves with aspirational models, and Android devices hit mid-range prices in ’10.

Fearless Drivers

We had said before that key purchase criteria (design, features, brand) were reaching parity across OEMs, splitting the market into basic “phones” (voice/camera/radio) and Internet devices. The former has room for two to three scale players: Nokia, Samsung, and a third based on a PC-OEM model using standard offerings (e.g., Qualcomm or MTEK chipsets). LG and ZTE are both seeking this position, from which SonyEricsson and Motorola retreated to focus on Internet devices. This does not mean mobile devices are now commodities, like wheat or steel. The complexity of melding software and hardware in tiny, highly functional packages is not the stuff of commodity markets. But we see a split where a narrow range of standard hardware platforms will accommodate an equally narrow set of software choices. Mediatek is blazing a trail here. Some operators (Vodafone, China Mobile, etc.) aim to follow this model for pre-paid and mid-range featurephones. Preserving software and services value-add for consumers in a market where hardware pricing is fairly transparent is a challenge for all OEMs.

This model is not confined to the low-end: In Wipe Out! we said Motorola (among others) would adopt an HTC/Dell model (integrating standard chipsets/software and cutting R&D). This is happening, with Motorola no longer trying to control its software roadmap, having fully adopted Android. SonyEricsson is following suit, with initial Android devices coming in 1Q10.

Recent management changes make it even more likely SonyEricsson gets absorbed into Sony to integrate with content (as its new marketing campaign pre-sages). Internet devices will become even more fragmented by would-be new entrants in ’10. In addition to Nokia, Apple, RIMM, HTC and Palm, LG and Samsung intend to build a presence in smartphones, as do Huawei, ZTE and PC ODMs. We had expected LGE or Samsung to consider M&A (i.e., buying HTC or Palm) to cement their scale or get a native OS platform. We forecast the shift to Internet devices would bring 27m incremental units from RIM, HTC, and Apple in ’09E. This now looks like it will be 21m units (partly due to weaker HTC sales), a growth of 58% vs. an overall market decline of 6%.

Growth: Steaming Again

After a long string of rises in both units and industry value, the global handset market retreated in ’09. We see risk of a weaker 1H10 mitigated in part by trends in China (3G) and India (competition among new operators). The industry had already scaled up for 10-20%+ growth during the ’05-’08 boom; most vendors have highly outsourced business models and/or partly idle capacity, meaning they could produce additional units relatively quickly. Paradoxically, 15% unit and sales growth will further encourage aggressive efforts to gain share.

Our regional forecasts are in Table 3. Emerging markets are two-thirds of volumes in ’09E and ’10E, and will lead growth – at ever lower price points – as they adopt 3G. Market dynamics vary sharply between highly-subsidised, contract-led markets (i.e., the US, Japan/Korea, and W. Europe) and pre-paid-led emerging markets (China, India, E. Europe, MEA and LatAm). In the former, operators are driving smartphone adoption; while price erosion helps limit subsidy budgets, we see growth in handset market value. As Table 4 shows, mobile data handsets hit 10%+ of EU operator sales, but are not yet driving operators’ sales growth.

demo_derb-table3.jpg

demo_derb-table4.jpg

In emerging markets, the growth in value is led by further volume increases for LCHs. In ’05, we saw an inflection point around Low-Cost Handsets: Every Penny Counts (July ’05) and A Billion Handsets in ’07? (Aug. ’05). Since ’05, there were 1.2bn handsets shipped in China and India alone. LCH chipsets now sell for <$5, with only Infineon and Mediatek actively supplying meaningful volumes. The ongoing mix shift to emerging markets and weak sales of mid-range devices in developed markets were behind the 13% decline in industry value in ’09E, excluding Apple’s sales. Of the extra 170m units we see shipping in ’10E, 105m come from emerging markets, with ~50m sold in China and India.

Costs: Relentless Slamming

In Wipe Out!, Arete laid out four areas where costs might rise in ’09 and beyond, as the source of structural pressure on industry margins. None of these costs are easing or receding. First, the chipset market is increasingly concentrating. TI is exiting, ST-Ericsson continues to lose money, Infineon recovered but still lacks scale in 3G, and Mediatek dominates outside the top five OEMs. This leaves Qualcomm in a de facto leadership position in 3G. This structure does not support meaningful cost reduction for OEMs. Intel may seek an entry to disrupt the market (see Qualcomm v Intel, Fight of the Century, Sept. ’09) but this is unlikely to happen until ’11. Memory may be in short supply in ’10, while high-end OLED displays still face shortages. Capacity cuts and losses at smaller component suppliers in ’09 limit how much OEMs can save. Outsourced manufacturers like Foxconn, Compal, Jabil, BYD, and Flextronics have low margins and poor cash flow. OEMs want to transfer more risk to suppliers that have little room to cut further.

Second, feature creep also thwarts cost reduction efforts: packing more into every phone is needed to stimulate demand, but adds cost. There are rising requirements in the mid-range, going from 2Mpx to 3.2/5Mpx camera modules, and adding touch, more memory, and multi-radio chipsets (3G, WiFi, BT, FM, etc.). Samsung already offers a 2Mpx touchscreen 2G phone for <$100 on pre-paid tariffs.

Third, software remains the fastest-rising element of handset costs. In Mobile Software Home Truths (Sept. ’09), we discussed how software was adding costs, but how many OEMs were struggling to realise value from software investments? Adopting “licence-free” or open source software does not necessarily reduce these costs: it must still be managed within industrial processes. Yet saving licence costs will be the argument used by OEMs forced to limit the number of platforms they support, as Samsung did by recently indicating it would abandon Symbian. We understand WinMo efforts have been largely mothballed at Motorola and SonyEricsson, even as LG is increasing its spend around Microsoft. Costs are also rising for integration of services, while Software costs are not falling; vendors are just shifting them from handset bill-of-materials (BoM) to other companies’ R&D budgets.

Finally, marketing costs are also rising. Vendors must provide $10m-50m per market of above-the-line marketing support and in-store promotions, to get operators to feature “hero” products. Services adds costs for integration and (often-overlooked) indirect product costs (testing, warranty, logistics, price protection in the channel). SG&A must rise to educate users about new services. OEMs cannot retain or win customers in a mature market without more marketing.

The case for services remains simple and compelling: Nokia’s 33% gross margin on €65 ASPs yields €22 gross profit per device, or €1/month over a two-year lifetime. This is the only way to offset further pressure on device profits. The drive to launch Services is another cost OEMs must bear, with a longer payback than that of 12-18 month design cycles for devices.

Margins: Beyond Fender Benders

When Motorola has lost $4bn since ’07 and SonyEricsson may lose as much as €1bn in ’09, we are no longer talking about minor dents. Gross margins for both are already low (sub-20%). The most notable feature of the past few years was how exposed some vendors were when extensions of hit products (or product families) fell flat. SonyEricsson went from 13% 4Q07 margins to breakeven by 2Q08, and RIM saw group gross margins drop 1000bps. Only Nokia (at 33%), RIM, Apple and HTC have gross margins above 30%. Few OEMs managed to raise gross margins after seeing them decline, though we see SonyEricsson and Motorola seeking to do so by vastly reducing their scope of activities.

Having an Asian low-cost base is a necessary but not sufficient condition of survival. Nokia is already the largest Asian producer, with the industry’s two largest plants (in China and India) giving it the lowest cost structure (i.e., the lowest ASPs, but consistently among the highest margins). Few OEMs other than Nokia make money selling LCHs (i.e., sub-€30). Nokia made ~60% of industry profits in ’08, but will be surpassed in profits in ’09 by Apple, which should make 40% of industry profits in ’10, while Nokia has 25%. It is also worth noting that we forecast margins to fall at nearly every vendor in ’10, though Motorola and SonyEricsson must end large losses, and Nokia will benefit for IPR income within its Devices margin.

demo_derb-table5.jpg


Software: Mutual Destruction?

The mobile industry is rapidly adopting the IT industry’s software as a service (SaaS) model. The handset is becoming a distribution platform for services and content; vendors aim to monetise a “community” of their device users. Yet for all the attention it gets, software is a means to an end, and not part of the product. Beyond RIM and Apple, only Nokia can afford its own smartphone platform R&D (i.e., Symbian), yet we see Nokia itself moving closer to Microsoft. Money alone cannot solve software or services issues; if so, Nokia’s industry-leading €3bn R&D budget would have yielded more success, while Apple would not have grabbed as much profit share with a $1.3bn group-wide R&D budget.

No vendor yet excels at ease-of-use for multiple applications (voice, SMS, music, video, browsing, navigation, etc.). RIM offers best-in-class messaging, but falls short in other use cases. The iPhone’s Web experience allowed it to overcome shortcomings in multi-threading and voice/text. Samsung has few services to accompany its sleek designs or high-spec displays and cameras. Just going to 70-100m touch-screed devices in ’10 will not resolve ease-of-use issues.

A number of vendors risk getting addicted to “free” software platforms where others reap the benefits (e.g., Android). Few OEMs have embraced regular updates of components (media players, browser plug-ins, etc.) to meet changing requirements. This is Apple’s edge (and in theory Microsoft’s, but it has not managed handset software efficiently). The current slowdown will only hasten moves to abstraction of hardware and software, long the case in PCs. What is the point of OEMs having their own “developer programmes” (e.g., MOTODEV, Samsung Mobile Innovation, SonyEricsson Developer World, etc.) if they adopt Android? To escape high software costs, some vendors are adopting a PC-OEM model: sub-20% gross margins, 1-5% R&D/sales, with little control over how services are implemented on devices.

When the Dust Settles…

After turmoil and consolidation in ’06, industry margins were robust in ’07, then plunged in ’08. Yet a hoped-for recovery in ’09 has given heart to a range of weaker players, sealing the industry’s fate.

Even with a resumption of growth, rising costs and hyper competition look set to put pressure on margins. The precipitous impact of this may not be seen until 2011; for now, managements are not inclined to call it quits, or admit they lack a services or software play. The handset market is hardly gone ex-growth, but its rules and value chain are shifting, as seen in Apple and Google staking their claims.

The market looks to be falling less than the $11bn we forecast for ’09 (“only” $9bn), but it is Apple’s incremental sales that are changing the dynamics most. We are no fans of M&A, but would welcome moves to remove industry capacity. There are few obvious options, beyond HTC and Palm. We also think Samsung and LGE would benefit from deals that might open up their insular corporate cultures. Nokia has showed how difficult it is for an OEM to assemble a portfolio of Services offerings: none are yet best-in-class. Our verdicts on the key questions for vendors are listed in the following table: We see room for two to three scale players in LCHs/feature-phones (Nokia, Samsung and one other following a PC-OEM model). Smartphones will grow even more fragmented and hotly contested. We are not certain whether the others – SonyEricsson, LGE, Motorola, ZTE, HTC, and Japanese vendors – will emerge from 2010 in one piece.

demo_derb-table6.jpg

Richard Kramer, Analyst
Arete Research Services LLP
richard.kramer@arete.net / +44 (0)20 7959 1303

Brett Simpson, Analyst
Arete Research Services LLP
brett.simpson@arete.net / +44 (0)20 7959 1320

 

Regulation AC – The research analyst(s) whose name(s) appear(s) above certify that: all of the views expressed in this report accurately reflect their personal views about the subject company or companies and its or their securities, and that no part of their compensation was, is, or will be, directly or indirectly, related to the specific recommendations or views expressed in this report.

Required Disclosures

For important disclosure information regarding the companies in this report, please call +44 (0)207 959 1300, or send an email to michael.pizzi@arete.net.

Primary Analyst(s) Coverage Group: Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Ericsson, HTC, Laird, Motorola, Nokia, Palm, RIM, Starent.

Rating System: Long (L), Positive (+ve), Neutral (N), Negative (-ve), and Short (S) – Analysts recommend stocks as Long or Short for inclusion in Arete Best Ideas, a monthly publication consisting of the firm’s highest conviction recommendations.  Being assigned a Long or Short rating is determined by a stock’s absolute return potential, related investment risks and other factors which may include share liquidity, debt refinancing, estimate risk, economic outlook of principal countries of operation, or other company or industry considerations.  Any stock not assigned a Long or Short rating for inclusion in Arete Best Ideas, may be rated Positive or Negative indicating a directional preference relative to the absolute return potential of the analyst’s coverage group.  Any stock not assigned a Long, Short, Positive or Negative rating is deemed to be Neutral.  A stock’s absolute return potential represents the difference between the current stock price and the target price over a period as defined by the analyst.

Distribution of Ratings – As of 15 October 2009, 10.8% of stocks covered were rated Long, 6.8% Positive, 25.7% Short, 10.8% Negative  and 45.9% deemed Neutral.

Global Research Disclosures – This globally branded report has been prepared by analysts associated with Arete Research Services LLP (“Arete LLP”) and/or Arete Research, LLC (“Arete LLC”), as indicated on the cover page hereof.  This report has been approved for publication and is distributed in the United Kingdom and Europe by Arete LLP (Registered Number: OC303210, Registered Office: Fairfax House, 15 Fulwood Place, London WC1V 6AY), which is authorized and regulated by the UK Financial Services Authority (“FSA”), and in the United States by Arete LLC (3 PO Square, Boston, MA 02109), a wholly owned subsidiary of Arete LLP, registered as a broker-dealer with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”).  Additional information is available upon request.  Reports are prepared using sources believed to be wholly reliable and accurate but which cannot be warranted as to accuracy or completeness.  Opinions held are subject to change without prior notice.  No Arete director, employee or representative accepts liability for any loss arising from the use of any advice provided.  Please see www.arete.net for details of any interests held by Arete representatives in securities discussed and for our conflicts of interest policy.

U.S. Disclosures – Arete provides investment research and related services to institutional clients around the world.  Arete receives no compensation from, and purchases no equity securities in, the companies its analysts cover, conducts no investment banking, market-making or proprietary trading, derives no compensation from these activities and will not engage in these activities or receive compensation for these activities in the future.  Arete restricts the distribution of its investment research and related services to approved institutions only.  Analysts associated with Arete LLP are not registered as research analysts with FINRA.  Additionally, these analysts may not be associated persons of Arete LLC and therefore may not be subject to Rule 2711 restrictions on communications with a subject company, public appearances and trading securities held by a research analyst account.

Section 28(e) Safe Harbor – Arete LLC has entered into commission sharing agreements with a number of broker-dealers pursuant to which Arete LLC is involved in “effecting” trades on behalf of its clients by agreeing with the other broker-dealer that Arete LLC will monitor and respond to customer comments concerning the trading process, which is one of the four minimum functions listed by the Securities and Exchange Commission in its latest guidance on client commission practices under Section 28(e).  Arete LLC encourages its clients to contact Anthony W. Graziano, III (+1 617 357 4800 or anthony.graziano@arete.net) with any comments or concerns they may have concerning the trading process.

General Disclosures – This research is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any security.  It does not constitute a personal recommendation or take into account the particular investment objectives, financial situations, or need of the individual clients.  Clients should consider whether any advice or recommendation in this research is suitable for their particular circumstances and, if appropriate, seek professional advice.  The price and value of the investments referred to in this research and the income from them may fluctuate.  Past performance is not a guide to future performance, future returns are not guaranteed, and a loss of original capital may occur.  Fluctuations in exchange rates could have adverse effects on the value or price of, or income derived from, certain instruments.

© 2009.  All rights reserved.  No part of this report may be reproduced or distributed in any manner without Arete’s written permission.  Arete specifically prohibits the re-distribution of this report and accepts no liability for the actions of third parties in this respect.

Full Article: Mobile Software Platforms – Rapid Consolidation is Forecast

Summary: New analysis suggests that only only three or four mobile handset software platforms will remain by 2012. 

AreteThis is a Guest Briefing from Arete Research, a Telco 2.0™ partner specialising in investment analysis.

The views in this article are not intended to constitute investment advice from Telco 2.0™ or STL Partners. We are reprinting Arete’s Analysis to give our customers some additional insight into how some Investors see the Telecoms Market.

Mobile Software Home Truths

Wireless Devices

famer%20and%20wife.jpg

Amidst all the swirl of excitement around mobile software, some dull realities are setting in.  As the barn gets crowded with ever more exotic breeds (in alphabetical order: Android, Apple OSX, Blackberry, LiMo, Maemo, Moblin, Symbian, WebOS, WindowsMobile), there is a growing risk of fragmentation and consumer confusion.  We see some unglamorous “home truths” about mobile software getting lost in the weeds.

 

Few, if any, vendors make money from mobile software.  Microsoft makes $160 of gross profit per PC while mobile software is moving royalty-free. The few pure plays (like Opera) rely on sales of services around their software.  Mobile software only gets leverage from related services (often a single one).  These must be tightly linked to devices, e.g., e-mail (Blackberry), e-books (Kindle), music (iTunes) or gaming (XBoxLive), with resulting communities controlled by their choice of software; few services work equally well on all devices (e.g., search, YouTube).

 

AppStores are not (yet) content stores. OEMs must link themselves with cloud services (like Motorola’s new BLUR platform) or offer their own (e.g., ITunes, Ovi, etc.).  Individual developers find it hard to make money through AppStores: if even one were making $10m in sales, it would be widely publicised.  Exclusive or “sponsored” applications like navigation or content-like games should fare much better.

 

We see room for only three to four platforms by 2012.  The pace of innovation, R&D cost, and need for customisation (for hardware, operators and languages) invites consolidation.  Supporting OEMs and reaching out to developers is costly and labour-intensive; only over time might HTML5 browsers supplant device-specific applications.  No platform is so productised as to simply hand over to licensees (be they OEMs or operators).

 

Every smartphone will support one (or more) AppStores.  We do not know how many services or what content AppStores 2.0 might offer, or how they will be made relevant to consumers.  The most popular applications should work on every smartphone, even as some devices (like INQ) are optimised for versions of Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Skype and other popular digital brands and services. AppStores may help OEMs build relationships with users of those services, though both vendors and operators will try to control billing.

 

All phones are becoming smart.  So-called smartphones get attention as a growth segment in a declining handset market, but “dumbphones” (using proprietary software like Nokia’s S40, Samsung SHP/TouchWiz or LG’s S-Class) are getting more sophisticated.  The costs of the two are converging. Featurephones will soon also support AppStores and Internet services.

 

Table 1: Platform Penetration

 

’09E

’11E

 

Symb. v9.3+/S60

~110m

~240m

S60 goes mid-range

Apple OSX

~30m

~120m

Incl. iPod Touch

B’berry OS 4.5+

~40m

~80m

Doubling OS base

Android

<10m

~80m

From >10 OEMs

WinMo 6+

~10m

~50m

Transition to Win7

Palm WebOS

<5m

~15m

Limits w/o licensing

LiMo

<5m

~20m

Platform for LCHs

Source:  Arete Research estimates. 

 

Hard Graft

The costs for developing and maintaining complex software platforms are increasing.  There are no shortcuts to the sheer volume of work, especially in building on legacy code bases and supporting operator requirements, or developing language packs.  Every platform faces significant roadmap issues. Some handset OEMs are building adaptation layers to port a range of applications to their own branded UIs.  Just supporting multi-core chipsets for handling streaming or managing financial transactions needs additional processing power to deal with security and viruses.  Yet it requires software re-writes and poses power management challenges (i.e., tripling or quadrupling processing will drain batteries faster).

 

We long predicted video would become as ubiquitous as voice, i.e., with devices designed around handling video traffic.  There are a wide range of solutions to cope with streaming video, including in software (i.e., Flash or Silverlight) rather than via hardware optimisations. Apple patented technology around adaptive bit rate codecs to handle streaming in its forthcoming iPhones.  All platforms need to support over the air (OTA) updates, embrace graphics-rich applications, handle HD content, and comply with an array of USB drivers and accessories.

 

It is also not clear whether application downloads are a novelty or a mass market phenomenon. Discovery and recommendation engines need to be improved on most platforms, and marketing must focus on what applications offer. The gap between legacy platforms and an over-the-air customisable user experience is a wide one, and will not be resolved by AppStores, fresh UIs, or moves to go open source. Widget and webkit technologies could bring similar UXs across multiple devices.  Most developers will not need access to lower layers or optimise applications for specific hardware.  Over time, HTML5 browsers could supplant device-specific applications (e.g., GMail runs on an iPhone as a web application, as does WebOutlook on Android), but OEMs are unlikely to embrace this approach.  This also does nothing to extend billing or allow for collection of detailed customer analytics.

 

At the same time, operators’ selection criteria are moving from form factors to user experiences.  Operator UX teams now number in the 100s of staff, even if they fake a fragmented approach: Vodafone-subsidised devices currently support Android Market, Blackberry AppsWorld, OviStore and iPhone AppStore, and runs its own developer programme (Betavine). Few telcos develop native applications, but mostly use ones that run in Java, Webkit, Widgets, etc. Only a few (e.g., Verizon Wireless) offer customised UI.

 

While Apple and Google get the most attention (as pioneers of the AppStore concept, and for providing a shop-front for the open source community), Nokia and Microsoft have pivotal roles to play.  Both offer unprecedented scale (in handsets and computing software), even if both are fast followers.  We do not see Nokia’s commitment to Ovi or Symbian wavering. Though Microsoft’s successive versions of WindowsMobile failed to get traction beyond 10-15m units p.a., we expect a renewed push around Windows7 in 2H10. The MSFT/Yahoo search deal could be a blueprint for closer collaboration with Nokia. With its resources (a $9.5bn R&D budget) and assets (enterprise installed base, XBox, HotMail, and Bing), Microsoft could offer handset OEMs revenue share deals. LGE already committed to ship 50+ Windows models by 2012.

 

Figure 1: Product Differentiation?

arete%20mob%20soft%203%20nov%202009.jpgSource: Arete Research.

Content, Not Applications

An AppStore is not a content store, yet.  The next battle will be to add intelligence and filtering to AppStores, and tightly integrate content with platforms (as with iTunes, Kindle, Zune HD, or Comes With Music).  There are limits to how many applications consumers are likely to use, whereas there is a wide range of content to access via mobile devices.  To handle this, mobile devices also need integration with home CE/PC products. Samsung, for one, aims to provide “three screen” offerings spanning TVs, PCs, cameras, and handsets. There will be efforts by Sony, Apple, Samsung and others to make a single harmonised software platform that spans a wide range of video-capable devices.

 

Figure 2: Putting Software at the Centre of a CE “User Experience”

arete%20mob%20soft%202a.jpg

Source:  Arete Research.

 

With multi-radio (e.g., 3G, WiFi and Bluetooth) integration and voice recognition, mobile devices could become a control point to reach “virtualised” content.  This is a longer-term “cloud computing” angle to mobile software, handling access to and storage of personal content.  OEMs will need to offer tight integration with cloud services, or offer their own “stores of content.”

 

Apple and Google designed platforms with PCs in mind, and drew developers from the vastly larger desktop world.  They benefit from programming in AJAX, whereas Symbian uses a range of older object-oriented languages.  Yet in both handset and PC worlds, OEMs, not developers, create devices.  They are the gatekeepers for software and AppStores, managing the flow of any OTA updates that might alter the UX.  Adobe has provided a good model, with regular updates of its popular Flash and Acrobat software.  Yet user expectations of handset stability will get re-set if devices regularly need updates like PCs do.

Too Much Choice?

The number of companies vying to become the platform of choice is staggering, and itself a problem. Beyond the ones we discuss below, we can add Intel (with its Moblin effort), Palm’s WebOS (which remains device-specific) and the range of Linux variants (like the Nokia-sponsored Maemo, LiMO, and components developed under the OMTP).  The latter shows how limited group initiatives have been: OMTP involves VOD, TMOB, TI, TEF, AT&T, and others, but all of these compete for exclusivity with operator-subsidised devices that will never be OMTP-compliant.  None of the above options are yet mass market (i.e., likely to top 10m+ units in ’10).  Just to confuse matters further, there are other applications environments (e.g., BREW) as well as “component” vendors like Opera, Access, and Adobe.  We look at leading platforms below:

 

Apple’s OSX

Apple excelled at innovating around the UX and using animation to mask some of the iPhone’s early weaknesses (lack of multi-threading, slow image processing).  Apple’s marketing anticipated the market’s direction with its focus on applications, and Apple’s PA Semi unit will help it be first to market with multi-core processing (supporting streaming video).  Apple is still attracting developers with the clarity and simplicity of its SDK, and by testing and proving in each layer of stack via PC products.  We expect OSX to be extended to CE products, and also for Apple to bring AppStores to the PC.

Google’s Android

For a two-year-old platform, Android got ample OEM support, following up its G1 (a.k.a. the Android Developer Phone) with subsequent releases Cupcake/Android v1.1, with the Éclair release being v2.0. Android aims to be binary forward compatible, i.e., existing applications written for G1s will run on new devices without modifications.  Developers create Android Virtual Devices with the SDK to run applications for a range of devices. Development and emulator debug time is far shorter in Android compared with Symbian.

Despite OEM support, Android’s governance remains fuzzy.  Android is open-sourced licensed, but not an open source project: a small (~300 staff) team controls the developer ecosystem and Android Market distribution. It has not productised source code or offered post-sales software management tools, and has limited support for operator-compliant packs, libraries of hardware drivers, and language variants. Some developers say Android is slow to respond to change requests and to accept code modifications.  In exchange for access to Android Market, Google requires OEMs to bundle Google Apps and supply usage analytics from devices.  One key commercialisation partner, WindRiver, was bought by Intel, while another, Teleca, started an Android Feature Club to resolve common integration issues.  Android’s end-game is unclear: is it a hedge against Microsoft or Apple controlling end-devices?  A Trojan Horse for Google services?  Or will it become an independent company with license fees?  If operators don’t need devices “with Google,” then Android may fragment into many custom UIs.

 

Nokia’s Symbian

After a decade under a shifting set of parents, the rump of Symbian was bought by Nokia and made an open source project, including Nokia’s own S60 UI.  Symbian/S60 was initially developed for phone functions, and saw limited traction for downloads under cumbersome tree and branch menu structures. Many developers feel Nokia/Symbian offers too many choices (native Symbian code, J2ME, FlashLite, Web runtime and Python), each with limitations and compatibility issues. The S60 browser is based on webkit, but lacks HTML5 support.  Nokia’s decision to open source Symbian/S60 has stalled its development, as Symbian re-writes and tests third-party software in its 40m line code base.  It will be difficult to make major improvements to Symbian (i.e., to support multi-core processors) during this process.

 

When Nokia ships Direct UI in mid ’10, Symbian will effectively break its backwards compatibility.  Whether it also moves to a completely new release (v.10 from v.9.6) is still open. This may alienate developers that have to re-develop for a new platform and comply with Nokia’s new Direct UI (based on QT).  They also must resolve whether Symbian horizon is sufficient as a publishing tool, or if Nokia can get other OEMs to use OviStore, which still lags rivals on many fronts.  Nokia hopes Symbian will present a credible alternative to Android in mid-2010 when it is fully open source/EPL licensed, with Nokia assuring a large market.

 

Microsoft’s Windows

Windows Mobile 6.5 traced a long evolution from the Pocket PC OS, but still uses an older WinCE 5 kernel.  Microsoft recognised its failings by bringing in new management for Mobile, acquiring Danger (designers of the Sidekick device), and engaging LG as a mass market OEM alongside long-term supporter HTC.  We see 6.5 as simply a stopgap solution until Microsoft brings the innovation seen with its ZuneHD UI and leaner Win7 platforms to mobile.  Microsoft is also offering its software in a reference design called Pink, and may tweak its long-held license fee model with PC-like terms (rebates, discounts and marketing support). This may gain traction among Chinese OEMs, after Taiwanese and US OEMs failed to ramp WinMo to volume.  It is too early to rule out a now-dormant Microsoft, given its scale in computing and revival with Win7.

RIM’s Blackberry OS

In a world moving more “open,” RIM keeps its OS development in-house, stressing the need for security and compression. Yet RIM must evolve the BlackBerry’s UI and bring more developers to its AppsWorld platform, as well as open up its charging model beyond PayPal to embrace operator billing. BlackBerry’s application environment works on a J2ME framework with proprietary extensions, which adds fragmentation and compatibility issues. However, the security and bandwidth compression so valued by enterprises may limit performance for consumers, as applications traverse its NOCs via RIM’s proprietary browser.  RIM’s premium pricing still relies on its messaging franchise, which faces challenges from ActiveSync and efforts to bring push e-mail to mass market price levels. Rivals may not match Blackberry’s UX, but some segments may be less sensitive to RIM’s security and delivery than the price of handsets.  While RIM stresses incremental upgrades for its AppsWorld, we hear they are undertaking an extensive OS re-write to support new multi-core chipsets.

 

Down to Earth

This space gets too much attention for the revenue it directly generates.  Mobile software is a means to an end, and the end is selling devices and Internet services.  The cost of development will narrow the number of platforms by 2013, but not before the sheer number of options bewilder consumers who know about them and frustrate others wishing to get simple access to specific content. Given how rapidly key hardware costs are falling, and how sophisticated mid-range software platforms are becoming, all phones will become smartphones of some sort. Who wants to own a dumbphone?

 

AppStores will evolve to offer a range of content and services, with a major battle brewing over billing and data on consumer usage.  Every device will support some AppStores and work with a range of Internet brands and services.  Some content will be packaged and tightly linked to specific devices.  The Holy Grail in all this mobile software will be its extension to ranges of other CE products.  There is ample reason to scoff at the hype around mobile software — for its marginal economics and inevitable fragmentation — but no doubt as to its future role as a control point for more valuable content and Internet-based services and brands.

 

 

 

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES

 

For important disclosure information regarding the companies in this report, please call +44 (0)207 959 1300, or send an email to michael.pizzi@arete.net.

 

This publication was produced by Arete Research Services LLP (“Arete”) and is distributed in the US by Arete Research, LLC (“Arete LLC”).

 

Arete’s Rating System. Long (L), Neutral (N), Short (S). Analysts recommend stocks as Long or Short for inclusion in Arete Best Ideas, a monthly publication consisting of the firm’s highest conviction recommendations.  Being assigned a Long or Short rating is determined by a stock’s absolute return potential and other factors, which may include share liquidity, debt refinancing, estimate risk, economic outlook of principal countries of operation, or other company or industry considerations.   Any stock not assigned a Long or Short rating for inclusion in Arete Best Ideas is deemed to be Neutral.  A stock’s return potential represents the difference between the current stock price and the target price.

 

Arete’s Recommendation Distribution.  As of 30 June 2009, research analysts at Arete have recommended 16.9% of issuers covered with Long (Buy) ratings, 21.1% with Short (Sell) ratings, with the remaining 62.0% (which are not included in Arete Best Ideas) deemed Neutral.  A list of all stocks in each coverage group can be found at www.arete.net.

 

Required Disclosures.  Analyst Certification: the research analyst(s) whose name(s) appear(s) on the front cover of this report certify that: all of the views expressed in this report accurately reflect their personal views about the subject company or companies and its or their securities, and that no part of their compensation was, is, or will be, directly or indirectly, related to the specific recommendations or views expressed in this report.

 

Research Disclosures.  Arete Research Services LLP (“Arete”) provides investment advice for eligible counterparties and professional clients. Arete receives no compensation from the companies its analysts cover, does no investment banking, market making, money management or proprietary trading, derives no compensation from these activities and will not engage in these activities or receive compensation for these activities in the future. Arete’s analysts are based in London, authorized and regulated by the UK’s Financial Services Authority (“FSA”); they are not registered as research analysts with FINRA. Additionally, Arete’s analysts are not associated persons and therefore are not subject to Rule 2711 restrictions on communications with a subject company, public appearances and trading securities held by a research analyst account. Arete restricts the distribution of its research services to approved persons only.

 

Reports are prepared for non-private customers using sources believed to be wholly reliable and accurate but which cannot be warranted as to accuracy or completeness.  Opinions held are subject to change without prior notice.  No Arete director, employee or representative accepts liability for any loss arising from the use of any advice provided.  Please see www.arete.net for details of any interests held by Arete representatives in securities discussed and for our conflicts of interest policy.

 

 

© Arete Research Services LLP 2009.  All rights reserved.  No part of this report may be reproduced or distributed in any manner without Arete’s written permission.  Arete specifically prohibits the re-distribution of this report and accepts no liability for the actions of third parties in this respect.

 

Arete Research Services LLP, 27 St John’s Lane, London, EC1M 4BU, Tel: +44 (0)20 7959 1300

Registered in England: Number OC303210

Registered Office: Fairfax House, 15 Fulwood Place, London WC1V 6AY

Arete Research Services LLP is authorized and regulated by the Financial Services Authority

 

US Distribution Disclosures.  Distribution in the United States is through Arete Research, LLC (“Arete LLC”), a wholly owned subsidiary of Arete, registered as a broker-dealer with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Arete LLC is registered for the purpose of distributing third-party research. It employs no analysts and conducts no equity research. Additionally, Arete LLC conducts no investment banking, market making, money management or proprietary trading, derives no compensation from these activities and will not engage in these activities or receive compensation for these activities in the future. Arete LLC accepts responsibility for the content of this report.

 

Section 28(e) Safe Harbor.  Arete LLC has entered into commission sharing agreements with a number of broker-dealers pursuant to which Arete LLC is involved in “effecting” trades on behalf of its clients by agreeing with the other broker-dealer that Arete LLC will monitor and respond to customer comments concerning the trading process, which is one of the four minimum functions listed by the Securities and Exchange Commission in its latest guidance on client commission practices under Section 28(e).  Arete LLC encourages its clients to contact Anthony W. Graziano, III (+1 617 357 4800 or anthony.graziano@arete.net) with any comments or concerns they may have concerning the trading process.

 

Arete Research LLC, 3 Post Office Square, 7th Floor, Boston, MA 02109, Tel: +1 617 357 4800