The Forecast: Lots More Mobile Devices

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Looking at things from the highest possible viewpoint, it's safe to say that the number of devices people tote around without a wired connection is growing at a precipitous rate. This eWeek story reports on IDC findings that PC shipments are expected to grow 12 percent this year. The key is that the increases will largely be driven by notebooks and ultra-portables. Indeed, the firm says that these two types of mobile gadgets will surpass desktops globally by 2010, only three short years away.


Cell phones also are multiplying at a fast pace. At the end of May, Gartner said that demand in Asia and Africa will push sales to a record level of 1.15 billion units, a 16 percent rise from last year. This is nothing new: The strength of emerging markets has driven 20 percent increases for each year since 2002.


IC Insights validates that view in the latest release of its McClean Report. This story on the report, posted at Circuit Assembly, says that the integrated circuit (IC) industry -- which is joined at the hip with the cell phones into which they are installed -- enjoyed a 22 compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2001 and last year. For the first time, more than 1 billion units will ship this year, a 10 percent rise over last year. Nokia, the report says, will lead with 400 million handsets, while Sony Ericsson will surge 40 percent and pass Samsung.


Within news of the growth of wireless and cellular devices -- which somehow doesn't seem that unexpected -- is a bit of a surprise. This Desert News piece reports a CIBC World Markets prediction that Motorola's status as the number-two vendor (after Nokia) is in peril. The company's market share has eroded from 22 percent to 15.3 percent due to a number of missteps. Samsung, at 14.5 percent, is pressing the Schaumburg, Ill.-based company. The report makes no mention of Sony Ericsson.


The overall picture will be a bit uneven during this summer, as a spike expected with the introduction of Apple's iPhone later this month would be offset if an International Trade Commission ban on importation of new model phones using certain Qualcomm chips actually takes effect. The Qualcomm chips use software that encroaches on a patent held by Broadcom.


A more fundamental change over the next few years will be the growth of dual mode phones teaming cellular with Wi-Fi and or WiMax. The overall effect will be more mobile devices. The In-Stat study described in this RF Design piece says that Wi-Fi chipsets increased 32 percent between 2005 and 2006, ending last year at 213 million units. That, apparently, is only the tip of the iceberg. Converged handsets will be the "breakout market segment" this year and will represent 20 percent of the market in 2009.


Turbulent times are ahead as companies compete within established sectors and new platforms emerge. One thing is clear, however: The number of devices in the field will inexorably increase.