Author(s): Peter Bryer
It could be called the European Mobile Crisis. In record time, Europe has gone from a leadership position in handsets to practically zero market share, depending on how you categorise a phone. European mobile brands such as Nokia, Ericsson, Siemens, Philips, Sagem and Alcatel were once consistently listed among the top global handset manufacturers. Today there are no major European handset brands. They've gone East and they've gone West, leaving a gap in the middle.
This makes the recent news of Philips re-emerging as a handset supplier in markets such as India and China all the more interesting. Is a European company going against the trend and making a serious comeback in handsets? Philips is a well-respected consumer electronics brand making innovative products for markets around the globe, and in a world of networked toothbrushes and bulbs, it would be easy to find synergy in its connected products.
But in reality Philips appears to have little to do with Philips smartphones. Just as Alcatel OneTouch handsets are actually TCL devices, Philips new phones are designed and made by Shenzhen-based Sang Fei Consumer Communications. Sang Fei was once a Philips' joint venture in China, but is now independent of the Dutch company.
By leaving a mature market in which it had minimal market share, Philips is able to concentrate on core markets and innovation. But the obvious confusion among consumers, bloggers and journalists makes such branding issues rather convoluted. On the cover, phones such as the i908 are Philips-designed and Philips-made. But as with Alcatel and Nokia, Philips is a handset maker in name only. The company left the business long ago.
The fact that Europe no longer has a handset company it can call its own could be cause for concern among EU officials considering the growing importance of mobile devices across industries. But the hardware ship has sailed. Mobile business opportunities are moving in other places. There are brand new mobile opportunities for companies such as Philips.