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商业 - 科技

智能手机的未来已不在于手机本身

Eric Auchard 2016年03月29日

就屏幕尺寸、电池寿命和网络容量而言,目前智能手机硬件已经接近承受极限,很难再有新突破。而作为软件或服务出现的手机功能,从智能汽车、智能冰箱、智能手表到智能首饰等等,则在加快创新节奏。

一个时代可能即将终结。

iPhone横空出世革新手机行业已近10年,现在的问题是智能手机是否已经进化到极限,因为就连苹果公司都把4英尺小屏幕的老款手机拿出来当新品炒。

行业专家相信,智能手机的创新已经不再局限于掌上设备本身,而是各种各样的新设备上作为软件或服务出现的手机功能,从智能汽车、智能冰箱、智能手表到智能首饰等等创新节奏都在加快。

分析师和产品设计师指出,就屏幕尺寸、电池寿命和网络容量而言,目前智能手机硬件已经接近承受极限,很难再有新突破。

克里斯蒂安•林德霍尔姆曾发明老式诺基亚手机上的快捷输入键盘,这项发明让诺基亚手机成为历史上最畅销的移动设备。林德霍尔姆说:“现在手机领域的所有改进都是渐进的,稍微快一点儿,稍微大一点儿,存储空间稍微多一点儿,或者分辨率稍微高一点儿。”

这牵涉到大量经济利益,因为去年底世界上最大的三家上市公司——苹果、谷歌和微软的未来可能会取决于谁能率先实现突破淘汰手机。

许多公司都在探索新的互动方式,帮助消费者通过触觉、视觉和听觉与外界沟通。

方法之一就是通过声音激活个人助理设备,比如嵌入微型麦克风的“智能”项链以及可按照语音命令工作的微型耳塞。

全球的顶尖科技公司都在智能设备领域进展迅速,Google Now、苹果Siri、微软的Cortana和亚马逊的Alexa现在都能为用户阅读文字或电子邮件,回答实际问题,操作手机,进行基本通信或者查找地图。

独立金融分析师理查德•温莎认为:“就总的发展趋势来说,智能设备正在成为连接用户数字生活的新渠道。”

林德霍尔姆经营的公司叫KoruLab,主要为可穿戴设备开发简洁但极为高效的软件。在他看来,智能手机的功能有两类,一类属于能提供丰富娱乐体验的大尺寸产品,另一类则属于更注重实际生活的小型可穿戴设备,比如日程提醒,健康水平监测以及购买商品或服务等。

瑞银金融分析师估算,今年智能手机厂商的收入将超过3230亿美元,同比下降1.4%。研究机构Strategy Analytics预计,苹果一家就会占据50%以上的收入和75%以上的利润。

为扭转iPhone销量下滑的趋势,苹果最新推出了一系列新产品,包括更便宜的4英寸iPhone SE。

谷歌的收入几乎全部来自各类网络服务中的广告,而不是安卓系统,尽管世界上约80%的手机都在使用这个系统。

谷歌对移动广告的收入规模讳莫如深。但分析师估算,2015年谷歌披露的750亿美元收入中,约四分之一到三分之一来自移动广告。

微软收购诺基亚手机业务后毫无建树,还损失了76亿美元,去年微软已全面撤出手机市场。微软的策略正逐渐转向出售云服务,通过后台移动软件赚钱,目前云服务已经成为微软增长最快的业务。

手机就像电子时代的瑞士军刀,但它们最吸引人之处已经从抢眼的闪亮屏幕和光滑的边角变成了其中运行的软件和服务,而且往往是存储在云端的联网服务。

鲍勃•奥唐纳是加州福斯特城咨询公司Technalysis Research的消费电子行业分析师兼总裁。他说:“移动网络正逐渐将所有设备连结起来。”

无论将来哪个平台可能取代手机,都需要解决电池续航这个无法摆脱的问题。随着消费者看视频越来越多,增加待机时间也变得越发急迫。

下一代设备还需要更加柔软而且能在不同亮度下工作的屏幕。几十年来,移动设备的狂热粉丝们一直在急切盼望,但多年来三星和LG等知名行业龙头一直无法实现平价量产可弯曲屏幕。

理查德•温莎认为,可折叠或者平铺时可达10英尺甚至14英尺的柔软屏幕将使手机突破屏幕尺寸的概念。他说:“平板电脑是什么?为什么还要用平板?平板电脑市场可能会在一夜之间就消失了。”(财富中文网)

译者:Charlie

审校:夏林

It could be the end of an era.

Nearly a decade after the iPhone broke the mold for mobile phones the question is now being asked whether the evolution of the smartphone has finally come to an end as even Apple now treats older, smaller 4-inch screens as something new.

Industry experts believe innovation in smartphones is giving way to phone functions popping up as software or services in all manner of new devices from cars to fridges to watches and jewelry rather than remaining with handheld devices.

And analysts and product designers said fresh breakthroughs are running up against the practical limits of what’s possible in current smartphone hardware in terms of screen size, battery life and network capacity.

“Everything in the phone industry now is incremental: slightly faster, slightly bigger, slightly more storage or better resolution,” said Christian Lindholm, inventor of the easy text-messaging keyboards in old Nokia phones that made them the best-selling mobile devices of all time.

The financial stakes are high as the futures of Apple AAPL 0.70% , Google GOOGL -0.28% , and Microsoft MSFT 0.48% , the world’s three biggest listed companies at the end of last year, may now turn on who gets the jump on making handsets redundant.

Many firms are experimenting with new ways to help consumers interact with the wider world through touch, sight and sound.

These include voice-activated personal assistant devices dangling from “smart jewelry” necklaces with tiny embedded microphones or tiny earpieces that get things done for us based on our verbal commands.

The world’s biggest tech companies have made real progress in this arena with Google Now, Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana and Amazon.com‘s AMZN 1.18% Alexa now able to read texts or emails for users, answer practical questions, control phone features, handle basic communications or read a map.

“The way the whole thing is evolving, the device itself is becoming just another way to provide access to a user’s digital life,” said independent financial analyst Richard Windsor.

Lindholm now runs KoruLab, developers of compact, ultra-efficient software for running wearable devices. He sees smartphone functions splitting into two camps—big-screen devices for rich entertainment and compact wearables for more transactional activities like keeping up with one’s calendar, health or fitness monitoring or paying for goods or services.

Financial analysts at UBS UBS -0.65% estimate smartphone makers will generate more than $323 billion in revenue this year, a 1.4% decline from last year. Apple alone took in half of that revenue and more than three quarters of all profits, according to research firm Strategy Analytics.

Seeking to reverse declining iPhone sales, Apple announced a range of new products including a cheaper 4-inch screen iPhone SE.

Google generates virtually all of its revenue from advertising sold alongside its wide variety of Web services, rather than from its Android software, which drives roughly 80% of the world’s phones.

It is cagey about how much revenue comes from mobile advertising, but analysts estimate this contributed roughly a quarter to a third of its $75 billion revenue reported in 2015.

Last year Microsoft pulled back from the handset business, writing off $7.6 billion for its fruitless acquisition of Nokia’s handset business. Increasingly, its strategy has become to make money off the back-end of mobile software, through selling cloud-based services, now its fastest growing business.

For while phones are now the Swiss Army knives of the electronic age, their essential appeal to consumers has shifted from their eye-catching shiny screens and sleek bevelled edges to the apps and services running on the phones, often as Internet-based services hosted in the cloud.

“Mobile networks are moving to connect to all these other devices,” said Bob O’Donnell, a consumer electronics analyst and president of Technalysis Research in Foster City, Calif.

Whatever platform might displace the handheld phone also will need to resolve nagging questions about battery life, which have become more pressing as consumers watch more and more video.

The next big device also needs more flexible screenscapable of working in different lighting conditions. That’s a decades-old dream of gadget enthusiasts that has eluded recognized market leaders Samsung SSNLF -2.44% and LG of Korea, which have struggled for years to mass-produce flexible screens at anything close to mass-market prices.

Richard Windsor said flexible displays that could be unfolded or unrolled to up to 10 or 14 inches would set phones free from being defined by screen size. “What is a tablet computer?” Windsor asks. “Why would you bother having a tablet? That market would just evaporate overnight,” he said.

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