Potential global market of 70 mln consumers for mobile broadband PCs – survey

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A worldwide survey jointly conducted by the GSM Association and Microsoft indicates that there is an untapped potential market of 70 million consumers interested in notebook PCs with built-in mobile broadband, the two companies announced yesterday in Macao.

“Notebook manufacturers weren’t yet addressing this opportunity,” Robert Conway, the CEO of the GSMA, said at a press conference at the GSMA Mobile Asia Congress. “We’ve identified a new market segment, and now we’re going to define that market segment”.

The survey, which was the first of its kind, involved more than 12,000 consumer interviews across 13 countries. It indicated that there is a potential worldwide demand for about 70 million laptop PCs equipped with such technology, and that this segment of the PC/telecom industry could be worth as much as $50 billion.

The two companies said that they will launch a competition to identify devices and manufacturers able to serve the untapped market. Notebook manufacturers and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) will be asked to propose designs that could meet the newly-identified demand. The winner of the competition will be announced at the Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona in February next year.

“With the right form factor, price and ’out-of-the-box’ connectivity, the research has unearthed substantial demand for mobile broadband embedded notebooks that is not yet being met,” Conway said in a press release. “Now that we understand the market’s potential and consumers’ requirements, we are pleased to communicate the findings to the broader industry ecosystem.”

Conway said that in 2008, OEMs are planning to ship about 33 million notebooks in the $500 to $1,000 price range, but that only a fraction will be mobile-broadband ready.

Will Poole, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential Group, emphasized at the conference that most consumers want “out-of-the-box” capability for such PCs, that is, they do not want to spend time installing components or configuring their computers. “Not plug-and-play, just play,” Poole explained.

Mobile broadband PCs, which will run on HSPA technology, will act as a kind of expanded wireless Internet service, allowing PC users to access PC communication services on mobile networks wherever they go.

The companies did not specify if such technology would replicate or replace Wi-Fi technology, which allows PCs to access the Internet in a relatively limited area, saying only that although they hope that Wi-Fi would be a complementary technology, the market will ultimately decide.

According to Poole, the technology will transform the way people use PCs. “The goal here is for the consumer to be connected at all times… and think about the laptop in new way,” he said.

Conway and Poole stressed that the technology would be affordable. The survey indicated that the “emerging Asia/Pacific” region will have the largest demand for notebook PCs priced from $500 to $1,000 in 2008, accounting for 57 percent of demand, while North America will account for 15 percent and Western Europe 11 percent. According to the survey, 88 percent of all such consumers would want mobile technology included in their PCs.

“The middle and bottom of the [income] pyramid has largely been left behind with PC technology,” Poole noted, adding that one of the Microsoft Unlimited Potential Group’s biggest mandates is to address that disparity.

Participants in the contest to develop suitable technology for notebook PCs must register by Dec. 30 of this year, Conway said. According to the press release, leading PC manufacturers such as Dell, Lenovo, Asus and Fujitsu Siemens have already expressed interest in working with mobile operators and the GSMA to fulfill this demand.

“People all over the world want to access the information that they need, when they need it, wherever they are,” Rod Garriques, President of the Global Consumer Group for Dell, said in the press release. “We support the efforts of the GSMA and look forward to lending our expertise in built-in mobile broadband in order to help drive connectivity for more people around the world.”

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Source: Interfax China (link opens in a new window)