Cutting Room: 2010’s innovation and discipline

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How should we view 2010, when we are still so close to it? It has been a year in which the mobile industry has developed in spite of the economic climate, as well as because of it. It has showed innovation and discipline

Hardware development seems to have progressed at a faster rate than I can remember. This is a result of its close integration today with software, and the crossover of mobile with the internet. These factors are as much a part of consumers’ decision-making as the sharp edges and primary colours of box design.

It has been fiercely fought. Apple, BlackBerry, Android and, to be proved still, Windows – these have knocked Nokia onto its backside. If not for LG, Nokia has failed most among manufacturers.

In 12 months, LG has produced nothing remarkable. Its devices have been mid-to-low market affairs and forgettable. ‘Must do better’, reads its report card. There is more about Nokia, and more expectation of it, and so its lack of direction, or its misguided direction, are more of a concern. Its highest-profile executives have departed. These are deeply worrying times for the Finnish firm.

2009 was grim for everyone. There were plenty of comebacks in 2010, and some remain untested. But Motorola, Microsoft and Vodafone have all done decent jobs in the short time we can assess them.

In service provision, operators have improved. For several years, Vodafone, Orange and T-Mobile had been asleep at the wheel.

Vodafone has genuinely got an edge now – perhaps for the first time in a decade. It is quite different to the arrogant and inward-looking organisation it had become, and even from the firm that defined the market in the first half of the decade.

It looks like it measures staff by their work, and not by their brogues. That said, its £10 million on advertising ‘Freebees’ with a Disney-style campaign looks out of kilter.

Everything Everywhere is like the non-story of the year, hyped beforehand and dead quiet during. But, then, that is the trouble with business integration. Its rivals smell blood. Nevertheless, it has undeniable scale and it can rampage and innovate just as soon as its located its navel.

The story of the year has got to be Daisy’s mass single-handed consolidation of the channel, which has focused largely on the fixed reseller market but has knocked out a couple of old brands from the airtime distribution market too.

The acquisitive approaches of Daisy and SpiriTel in the market will inform the mobile dealer channel in 2011, one senses. Certainly there are sufficient mid-size dealer businesses, taking instruction from Vodafone in particular, looking to buy scale.

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