i-mate meets the challenge

With an all new line up of Windows Mobile devices set to launch at GITEX this year, Dubai based i-mate seems to be back on track in its quest to dominate the smartphone and convergence device market. Arabian Business looks at the company's new strategy, and exclusively reviews the unreleased Ultimate range of smartphones.

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By  Administrator Published  September 6, 2007

It is no secret that i-mate has suffered a rough year. It posted a pre-tax loss of US$2.1m last year (compared to the US$22.5m profits the year before), while its main supplier, Taiwan-based HTC, launched its own brand in 2006 and severed its ties with i-mate. The stock (listed on London's AIM) has lost 75% of its value since December 2006. Jim Morrison, i-mate's founder and CEO, had to move quickly to dispel rumours that the company was in trouble. He restructured the company, let go of a number of people at its Dubai headquarters, and transformed the supply chain. During this year's GITEX, the company is placing its bets on its all-new Ultimate range - the Ultimate 6150 and Ultimate 8150.

Morrison founded i-mate in 2001, and decided to make Dubai the company's HQ. Over the years, the region's market proved to be very lucrative for the nascent company, and is now considered to be one of the world's leading experts in the design, development and customisation of smartphones and Pocket PC's, based on Microsoft Windows Mobile software. Although i-mate initially did not make any of its devices and relied on third party manufacturers, Morrison was actively involved in the design and engineering behind the phones, leveraging his 20 years of experience in telecoms. (He was a key member of the team that conceived and designed the product which became the O2 xda).

Morrison tailored the phones to appeal to Arab consumers with its Arabic language support

Historically, major tech companies that sought expansion into Middle Eastern markets did not do much to localise their products and content. i-mate took a different approach. Being a homegrown tech company, Morrison tailored the phones to appeal to Arab consumers by enabling Arabic language support and developing software specific to the market. The compelling mobile content and applications by a large in-house customer support service, have helped push i-mate to market-leading positions in several territories, with product distribution across the Middle East, North America, Australasia, Africa and many parts of Europe.

The company posted profits every year since its inception except last year, but given its loyal customer base in the region and a promising new line-up, i-mate may be on the verge of a spectacular comeback. It will all come down to how the new range is received at this year's GITEX. Other than Morrison, no one is aware of the stake more than Jack Craine, the newly appointed general manager for Middle East Africa and India. His principal focus is to head the business and product planning across these regions while continuing to drive sales growth.

Craine has been with i-mate for the past three years. He held the post of global sales director, based in Dubai, and prior to that he was in charge of the company's initial launch into Europe. A veteran of blue-chip companies including Coca Cola, Cadbury and Camelot (the operators of the world's largest privatised lottery), Craine has been instrumental in developing i-mate's Middle East and European sales strategy and has accumulated many years of experience in the sales channels and key partner relationships.

As i-mate prepares for one of the year's most awaited technology events, GITEX Technology Week, Craine says: "I am delighted to have the opportunity to bring all of my experience into our heartland. There is a first-class team here in the region with great pride and passion in what they do and I look forward to leading them into what will be an incredibly exciting time for the company.

We are currently expanding our range of products and services across the region and everybody here is looking forward to GITEX where we will be able to showcase our latest technology innovations in mobility." Singing the praises of the new product line - the source of much hype and hope, Craine continues: "Our new Ultimate product portfolio will include iconic devices specified to meet the growing demands of the most technologically savvy business customers and provide the best specification and form factor mix, with a device to match everyone's needs. The Ultimate device combines sleek design with unbeatable performance and enhanced specifications that will appeal to business users and gadget-lovers who require the very best combination of innovation, design and technology within a complete package - in the form factor of their choice. We are determined to develop products that cater to an individual's unique need and our latest product offering demonstrates our ability to provide a fantastic array of top tier mobile devices."

The Ultimate range consists of high-end, sophisticated 3G Windows Mobile devices based on the latest operating system from Microsoft - Windows Mobile 6. From powerful processors, VGA LCD touch screens, HSDPA connectivity, to unique XGA direct video out, the range is specified to meet a broad range of needs for all its current and future customers.

4151 days ago

What a load of twaddle.... For years JM has been spouting how brilliant he was 'designing' all these phones, when they were just rebranded items from someone else... who eventually saw the light.... as for now, I can see i-mate struggling... and to go into low-end picture frames is surely a sign of panic... and a fitting epitaph to a line of marketing twaddle.... The company should have been honest from the start and said he was just badge engineering...

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