The next fortnight seems to be a sort of ad-hoc announcement season: we have flagship announcements from Amazon, Nokia/Microsoft and (probably) Apple. These are the key points that seem likely.
Nokia/Microsoft: September 5, 10 EST (3 PM GMT)
- Certainty: Nokia will show new handsets running Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 8 operating system
- Desirable: better US distribution, devices at lower price points
- Possible: NFC, Pureview camera tech
- Possible: Windows 8 Tablet
This should be the point that Nokia can merge the long-term ‘cool future tech’ projects with the emergency ‘get Windows Phone models to market’ side of the business and start making really differentiated handsets again. I hope.
Since the event is in New York, I’ll be looking for expanded US distribution: serious disappointment if it does not make at least one (LTE model) available on Verizon Wireless. On a global basis, the key issue (setting aside ‘coolness’) is price – will it be able to get the cost of entry-level Windows Phone below $200 wholesale?
Amazon: September 6, 10:30 PST (6:30 PM GMT)
- Certainty: lots of impressive-sounding but actually meaningless stats on Kindle sales
- Near-certain: New Kindle Fire, maybe at a new price ($150?) or with significant new selling points
- Probably (but probably boring): new B&W Kindles with slightly better screens
- Possible: international launch (Lovefilm in UK?)
The Fire has sold 6-8m units but is no longer a unique price/proposition offer, especially if an iPad mini appears, and Amazon needs to do something about that. Adding 3G and/or going to a lower price would be the obvious moves. International launch (bundling Lovefilm in the UK, where it at least has the media rights?) also on the cards.
Apple: September 12 (rumoured)
- Certainty: new iPhone, speed bump (better chip, battery, camera etc)
- Probable: new design, LTE (at least on US bands)
- Possible: NFC and mobile payments, new ‘iPad Mini’ (though this may come at another event), lower price points for the discounted older iPhone models
- Wild card - cheaper new iPhone model
Apart from bumping the iPhone back to the top of the tech pecking order, there are some interesting choices for Apple to make. The immediately pressing one is LTE: this was the vast majority of VZW’s non-iPhone smartphone sales and is becoming a competitive necessity in the USA. It’s less important elsewhere, but would obviously be a big boost to LTE deployments in Europe, if it supports European LTE bands of course. It has the potential to be… interesting in the UK, where only Everything Everywhere has cleared 1800MHZ spectrum and has permission to ‘refarm’ it for LTE.
TD-SCDMA is another wild-card (Google it).
And finally, an ‘iPad Mini’ at $250 combined with a Kindle Fire at $150 (both realistic possibilities) would simply obliterate the ‘official’ Android tablet market, what’s left of it (which is not much).
Motorola/Intel, 18 September
Android phones. Posssibly a tablet or two. Running Intel chips.
It’ll be interesting to see if Motorola has changed the industrial design language at all, which has been very male so far.
Interestingly, the announcement is in London. That might signal an attempt to get distribution for Moto in Europe - at the moment it’s invisible here.