Friday, January 24, 2014

Smartphone Sales Declining?

Two side-by-side stories in the Wall Street Journal this morning might be a straw in the wind. In one Nokia’s smartphone sales are showing a down-turn; in the other, similar results are reported for Samsung. Is this market finally maturing? I note that new technologies have their own well-known cyclicality. When they are in their growth phases, they resemble bubbles. When they mature, the media always sound as if some kind of End Time has arrived. See for instance this article in the Wall Street Journal, dated April 11, 2013, “Computer Sales in Free Fall” (link). The chart shown does have an alarming aspect—until you realize that the down-ward trend is that of growth. When a market is mature, growth will tend to match that of an economy, not that of a bubble. And then the great leaders of an industry begin gradually divesting of the product to those who will keep selling them for many, many, many years to come. At a profit—but not at the kind of profit that lifts stocks. A recent example is IBM selling its network server unit to Lenovo of China (link).

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