9/25/2008 4:15:00 PM
Quality not technology
What have housebuilders and handset manufacturers got in common? Answer: they have both poured time and money into products that their customers can no longer afford. To be a housebuilder right now is an unenviable thing. Imagine: you have just completed a huge development of costly houses that has taken years to nurse through the planning process, and years more to build. After all this effort, the completion certificate comes through just as the economy dies on its backside and you are left with a white elephant.
It is stretching a point, perhaps, but this is not dissimilar to what is happening to handset manufacturers. They have been labouring away in their laboratories to produce the latest technology fad, the eight-megapixel camera phone (wasn’t five megapixels enough?).
They have done so only to find their labours are met with shuffling of feet among the operators, who no longer have the appetite to indulge their subscribers with such souped up luxuries. Operators always begrudge the amount of money they pour into handsets, but they especially loath to fund another round of new technology now, as they know full well it is unlikely to entice consumers to spend more on those elusive new revenue streams.
The good news for manufacturers is that the eight-megapixel handsets are still being signed up (page 2), and the bad news is that the deals are almost certainly not at the prices they envisaged. For all this, they should not give up on designing for the upper echelon. Housebuilders survived the last recession through a ‘flight to quality’. And here in mobile, the success of the iPhone shows what can be achieved when a product fires the imagination. But if there is one lesson manufacturers must learn it is that compelling quality, not just technology, is what is required.