European Communications

Last update12:36:19 PM

Fujitsu to push people-centric smartphones for European launch

Fujitsu is to launch a range of smartphones across Europe in Q4 this year as it aims to disrupt a market dominated by Samsung, Apple and Nokia.

“2012 will be a key year for smartphones,” Fujitsu’s sales director Robert Pryke told European Communications.

“Developments in LTE, Android and social media mean there is room for a new entrant.”

The Japan-based vendor will launch a portfolio of devices in the mid- to high-range bracket. The portfolio will be “single digits” in size and include tablets.

The devices will run across both Windows and Android operating systems depending on the operator.

EMEA product marketing director James Maynard said the company also had a few tricks up its sleeve.

“Many smartphones are task- rather than people-centric. Our smartphones will adapt in real time to the users environment,” he claimed.

Water resistance, integrated noise reduction technology and display optimisation were cited as examples of how Fujitsu would aim to produce more people-friendly phones.

Looking ahead, Maynard said the company aimed to create an SLR camera level experience in their handsets.

At present, Fujitsu is discussing distribution with a number of operators who were “the usual suspects” but Pryke declined to name specific names.

“We are looking to launch with one or two operators, but that is contingent on which devices they choose,” he added.

“If they select our premium devices this will limit the volume we can sell compared to if they chose our mid-range devices.”

In Q4 2011, Samsung led the mobile device market in Europe with 25 percent of sales, according to Gartner. Apple was second with 24 percent, while Nokia held onto third spot with 15 percent.

Pryke said Fujitsu does not view Apple as the competition describing it as a “unique phenomenon” but claimed his company would present a challenge to the other device manufacturers across the continent.

“We wouldn’t be launching if we didn’t think we could make a success of it,” he commented.

However, Dominic Sunnebo, global consumer insight director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, said the company faced an uphill task.

“The challenge Fujitsu faces to gain traction is huge. As it currently stands, competition across all price points is intense,” he said.

Pryke said that the company intended to build on its reputation as an ICT company, adding that a 50-50 split between retail and enterprise sales was “a fair assessment” of what they were aiming for.

“We are in a powerful position re vertical solutions,” added Maynard.

Fujitsu has been forced to look at Europe’s highly competitive market due to the situation in its home market, where profits have been squeezed.

“The situation in Japan has changed due to several foreign smartphone manufacturers entering the market in recent years,” explained Pryke.

While the business case for looking towards Europe might seem appealing, Fujitsu has a particular problem – consumers do not have a high brand awareness of the company in the European smartphone space.

“Ultimately, most European consumers will know Fujitsu for cameras and laptops, so to make any kind of impact, they will need a serious marketing campaign to sway consumers away from tried and tested brands,” commented Sunnebo.

This is something Maynard readily acknowledges. “We will need to increase awareness in consumer space,” he admitted.

The company will ride off the back of co-branding campaigns with operators initially, but is working on marketing campaigns and segmentation specifics.

“Getting the right devices in the right place at the right time is also key,” added Maynard.

Pryke shied away from setting any sales targets but it is very unlikely Fujitsu will get anywhere near the 20 percent market share it enjoys in Japan where it sells 6-7 million devices a year.

With Chinese vendors already challenging at the low-end and Apple still imperious at the top end of the market, it would appear that Fujitsu’s best bet could be the mid-market on the retail side; however with such fierce competition you feel they would have to come up with something truly disruptive to make a real impact.

On the enterprise side, however, they could be more successful presuming they can leverage their existing relationships, the more general move to unified communications and problems at competitors such as RiM.