Posts Tagged ‘emerging futures’

The end of an era: Where next for the big smartphone brands of today?

mobiles ericson

Africa’s marathon to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of connectivity and access is now a sprint to the finish line. Ericsson’s latest report shows penetration rates on the continent have overtaken India.

The market we began our careers in has now, not only matured, but is expected to cross 100% penetration within 5 years. I’d say that is conservative guess, based on what I’ve seen over the past 10 years that I’ve been watching mobiles in emerging markets and the erstwhile bottom of the pyramid.

Market forces are simultaneously creating another perfect storm. This time, its the handset makers and the big brands we’ve become accustomed to watching. Their time in the sun is over, as the market maturity curve shows a downward trend.

The smartphone industry grew at a single-digit rate this year for the first time, according to data from IDC. Just two years ago, the industry was expanding at a breakneck 40 per cent.

Two years ago, I predicted this day. I wonder if any of the manufacturers had the foresight to change gears back then, given the amount of time it takes to get new products, developed from scratch, to market.

Second, first-time buyers in emerging markets will power growth. Handset shipments in the Middle East and Africa rose 50 per cent year on year in 2015, IDC estimates. Chinese groups Xiaomi and Huawei — which catapulted to third place in shipments this year — have just entered those markets selling budget phones. Fierce battles are also playing out in India, where locals Micromax and Intex are fighting Samsung.

There are two paths that I can see happening. One will be the predictable one as foreseen by these analysts and trend watches – budget brands and low margin markets. This is the same path that mobiles took in the pre-smartphone era. A product category emerges, it sells like hotcakes, then growth slows as the last mile of market saturation is mopped up over time. Remember the netbook?

The other path, is that of the long tail of mobile phone design. Instead of top down market domination by the ginormous global brands like Apple and Samsung (Anyone remember those pioneers of the frontier – Motorola and Nokia?), it will be customized handsets for the discerning customer who wants something more than the oligopoly of iOS and Android.

The Linux of mobiles are already out there, geared up for downloadable personalized solutions. Handsets are commodities. Its a matter of time before one can buy a handheld device and download a customizable “phone” of choice, as the era of big boxes ends.

Ps. I notice that my posts looking over mobile industry trends were each written 24 months or so, apart. Is that the timeline for change in rapidly transitioning markets?

The end of the global middle class: A more frugal world?

The past half decade‘s worth of financial crises and increasing scarcity of resources have led to an increasing equalization in the global water level. Instead of the high tide that would lift all boats, the leveling off of growth is leading to an entirely different equation of purchasing power parity. Tomorrow’s equilibrium seems to imply a more frugal world. ~ Niti Bhan, 2012

I wrote this concluding paragraph just over 3 years ago. Today, I look at research from Pew that informs me the great American middle class has declined by half. An article on the Indian middle class claims they’re actually the world’s poor. And the mythical African middle class emerges, floats and sinks, sometimes all at once in the same article.

Water has found its level, and its barely staying afloat.

If indeed the global demographics are changing such that what was formerly considered the “middle class” by the metrics of the day do not apply anymore, would it not make more sense to rebase and then assess who is in the middle than to go chasing the golden children of the boom years long past?

Or, one could just stop looking for these unicorns everywhere and take the trouble to study the people who are the majority in these markets.

Either way, what was is over and what’s emerging is more frugal world with thinner wallets, fewer bank accounts and propensity to pinch their pennies. The data demonstrates it clearly enough.

Reach Beyond: the CHI 25th Anniversary Conference in San Jose, May 2007

Today I realize that I had been struck dumb by the myriads of visions dancing in front of my eyes when I went up on stage to share the Closing Plenary at the CHI2007 conference back in San Jose, CA in the first week of May 2007.

May 3rd, 2007 in San Jose CA Photo Credit: anikarenina Flickr

Have 6 years passed so suddenly?

This seems like a timely moment to look back at where we are now on our journey towards an internetworked worldwide web of humanity, enabled by technology, encouraging trustful and cooperative commerce, connectivity and communication. 

/I feel like a broken record sometimes ;p

Pondering the original concept of Emerging Futures


This tag cloud was my first attempt some two and a half years ago at patterning the dots that I saw dancing in front my eyes whenever I looked up from my laptop screen to squint into the distance.  Perhaps it is true as many would say that I’ve left out the entire mainstream consumer culture of shiny, glitzy toys and cutting edge nanotechnology so beloved of geeky hearts everywhere. But come now, dear readers, are you not all guilty of the same pleasures of browsing the latest techblingporn online?

So, to give voice to the often unheard, I shall attempt to articulate my thinking around this cloud and what and why made me use the words and clustering system that you see.

What is an emerging future?

It is one which is often only as little as 3 to 5 years away, ahead of us, in teh path to the future. Its not really as linear as monochronous cultures would imagine but far rather tends to be as fuzzy as the average african’s pursuit of punctuality or indian standard time (about 90 minutes either way).  Some extrapolations of dots tend to pan out soonish and some emerge quite tangibly into interesting fields with depth in their own right. At this point, one should give thanks to CK Prahalad’s shining of the flashlight on some dark corners.

Once one has established this frame of reference,  then the consideration of the next 4 or 5 billion people on our planet is inevitable. We cannot pretend anymore that its just us here online or otherwise and continue to assess our landscapes for path development in isolation of the rest of the world.

From these axes anchoring the origin, imho, the rest of the dots you see above, tend to flow.