Perfect signal

Channel Middle East called up some of the region's key players to ask what path resellers and retailers need to take for maximum margin.

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By  Dawinderpal Sahota Published  November 9, 2007

What are the main challenges in the handset market?

HB: It's mainly the diversities and complexities of the Middle East market. The reason for these complexities is the type of consumers, the level of income and purchasing power of consumers, which varies considerably in the Middle East. You have countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar, which have some of the highest GDPs in the world. Then you have countries like Yemen and Egypt, which have some of the lowest. Then there are the government regulations and the geographies and infrastructures of some of the countries. Some markets in the Middle East perceive the mobile phone as a status symbol and then other markets are known for their demand for low-end handsets.

VN: I would say that the major challenge is the short life-cycle of mobile handsets which consequently causes prices to erode quickly. This means that the time period in which you have to recuperate your marketing investment gets shorter and shorter.

VV: The main challenges are grey marketing, keeping pace with technologies and ensuring the right profile of stocks and price controls in the market place.

What level of handset consolidation is taking place and to what extent are mobile handsets replacing the role of a PC in businesses?

VV: Today's mobile phones come with powerful computing functions. Soon the market will be loaded with mobile phones that act more like computers than simply communication devices. Thanks to technologies playing a vital role in convergence, mobile computing is fast gaining popularity. Convergence isn't just about technologies coming together. It's about increasing the scope of the playing field where mobile companies are delivering mobile computing products that lead the future of the enterprise mobility business.

VN: While there is a lot of convergence happening in mobile handsets, I don't think it has quite reached a stage where we are talking about it replacing the role of a PC. Currently, the only instances in which we see mobile handsets as a strong challenger to the PC in terms of usage is in email and as a personal information manager.

JC: What we're seeing for the first time is that there are genuine alternatives to having a laptop and we see the devices converging in terms of shape, size and functionality as well. If you ask Microsoft as to the future of Windows Mobile, they'll probably say just take a look at what's happening in the laptop space and translate that into a smaller device that can fit into the palm of your hand.

ML: Today's mobile technology is allowing people to be venue-agnostic when they are working. I don't carry laptops on business trips that are shorter than two or three days, instead I keep my e-mails and calendar up to date with my mobile handset - and with handsets that have navigation, high-resolution cameras and MP3 players that go beyond professional usage. It moulds with your private time as well. That is especially true in the Middle East region where business people travel frequently. The option of being able to access e-mail from a mobile phone is extremely convenient.

HB: More and more device manufacturers are offering devices with smart functions integrated into the phone, which more or less do the same job as a PC, but I don't think they will replace PCs. Instead they will co-exist with the PC. These devices will be an extension of the PC outside your usual PC environment, which may be your home or your office. These two will co-exist and complement each other.

The Middle East handset channel is generally regarded as a retail-based one. Is there any room for b-2-b resellers to develop a proposition in this business?

HB: There is more room than there was two years ago for b-2-b resellers because for smart phone devices it is not enough to just put them up on retail shelves and expect them to sell. If people don't know the benefits of the device, how to use the device and connect it to their e-mail servers and corporate e-mails than that device is just an expensive, nice-looking Windows-enabled device that doesn't do anything. We are now seeing b-2-b resellers who don't just sell the device, but an end-to-end solution.

4244 days ago

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