What to expect from mobile phones markets in September?

There has been trend in the past few years that mobile phones are getting bigger and bigger. The most sold smartphone model in the market is Samsung Note 3, with 5,7inch display. Note 3 was huge success because 10 million units were sold just within 2 months of the launch. This phablet is special because just this model alone approached 50% of all Apple’s iPhone sales.

And now Apple is getting into the phablet game. IPhone 6 is rumoured to come with 2 different models, one with 4,7inch screen and the other with 5,5inch (iPhone 5c/5/5s has 4inch display). This model is one of the most interesting launches of the year, and not only because it’s an iPhone, more because what is their answer to the growing trend of phablets. Atleast i’m really looking forward to it.

As mentioned earlier Samsung Note 3 was huge succes and now in Q4 Samsung is rumoured to launch Note 4 and new smartwatch, Samsung Gear 3. There has been many rumors what would the Note 4 be like, rumors including 3-sided display, 4K resolution display and more, nobody really knows what information is sure. But one thing is, it’s gonna be better in anyway (of course, like will be it’s competitor iPhone 6 compared to older iPhone 5s). But one rumor really hit me, smartwatch Gear 3 might have a sim slot so you could use it for calling people without linking it to your phone.

Now, when you have a new high-end smartphone and a smartwatch and you want to answer incoming call with smartwatch, how do you listen to it without everyone around you hearing what in this case the caller has to say? Answer would be wireless headphones with connection like bluetooth.

Apple bought Dr. Dre Beats, company that makes headphones in early 2014. Samsung has it’s own serie of headphones called Level. Looks like two big mobilephone manufacturers are taking over the headphones market for mobile users and smartwatches becoming more and more popular, those wireless earpods would be very handy!

Both phones ( Apple iPhone 6 & Samsung Note 4 ) are expected to be launch in August / September 2014 because that’s the time of year when these two mobile manufacturers usually unveil their new models in their own conferences.


Ville Koski


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Financial markets and Loch Ness

Once again we can notice that the financial markets have their own paths due to economic situation. Last week was a good example of this. The week ended with a positive sign in Wall Street, but in the euro-zone the continent was in negative mood. And with good reason – the sanctions against Russia due to Ukraine crisis may have larger impact in EU-economies than earlier estimated.

New economic data from Germany and Italy show that the economic activity is not at the level as economists have predicted. For Germany Russia is the fifth largest export partner according to the OECD statistics. In Germany the trade balance showed a declining trend in June and the industry orders as well. The industry orders were down by 3,2 percent, when the markets expected a 0,9 percent increase. And in Italy the economy showed a continuous recession.

Mr. Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, said that the eurozone and US monetary policy would remain on a divergent path for some time. And so it seems to be. ECB is likely to continue its low-rates policy at least this year while the Federal Reserve has already said that they will end the quantitative easing programme in October.

Fed´s decision is backed by the fact that 75 per cent of the S&P 500 companies which have published their interim reports now have reported profits above the earning estimates. So the US companies are doing well in general.

The uneasy situation in the financial markets in Europe will stay for a while. There is also the currency situation in Scotland. Scotland will decide on September 18 whether or not they will end the union with the UK.

Surveys show that one of the biggest issues for or against the union is the question of currency. Which currency Scotland would use if they decide to be independent?

There is political debate if the rest of the UK would be interested to make a joint currency union if Scotland declares itself independent. Or would Scotland take euro in that case?

Anyway, one of the biggest economic impact would be the North Sea oil and gas revenues in the referendum. According to BBC it is predicted that the North Sea would bring 57 billion pounds tax revenue to Scotland by 2018. On the other hand, the UK goverment announced last week that they will review the tax system in the area in order to better match the current market conditions and to enhance investment activity.

Scotland has thought also further. They have said they would be interested to make a Norwegian-style sovereign wealth fund to manage the oil price fluctuations. This “Oil fund in Norway” is one of the biggest goverment pension funds globally and one of the active responsible investors in the field. The fund has said it will explore new investments in renewables.

If Scotland says yes in the referendum, it will have long-term impacts in the EU economic policy, currency markets, global financial centers rankings and of course Loch Ness. This Nessie would surprise markets – like Scottish Widows did in the pension markets in the early days.

But one thing is sure, the last weeks before the referendum, there will be new different public affairs campaigns and lobbying for no and yes votes.


Defining corporate responsibility strategy

Companies thinking about their corporate responsibility strategy have to think also about their business strategy. Responsibility strategy is not working as a stand alone objective, but more as integrated strategy. One can define, the more innovative your corporate responsibility strategy is, the better business strategy you have. And vice versa.

See the 5 step action plan for innovative responsibility strategy:

1. Engage with your stakeholders: This is one of the basic questions you have. Defining your business is sometimes hard if you think that the basic business rules and segments are not working any more. Technology has enabled and changed so many industry sectors like media, telecom, forest, retail, music…you name it. Positioning, segmenting and searching for new business areas.

Materiality analysis is one of the key elements in the early steps of responsibility strategy. Benchmarking new trends and technology innovations are examples of risk management by the management. It is about innovative product development, new markets and opportunities.

One of the interesting & innovative new product launches has been the Lego (www.lego.com) 3D printing case. The Danish toy company was struggling with the problem of time: children like to spend more time in internet than anything else and this is a problem for their parents.The answer was 3D printing: the company made a digital effort to allow customers make their own digital models of buildings and castles and enabled this also in 3D printing. Lego wanted to solve the time problem and let users play in digital world but also with basic brics. This service was launced in summer in the US.

2. How about your roadmap, targets and KPIs? Your company has values and mission. How to get there and taking also environmental, social and financial aspects along? Set targets and make adjustments along the way. You need short and long term targets for value creation and for shared value. Remember also the difference between relative and absolute targets.

This shared value means that your company can also have a positive impact in your society in general. It is important that you notice that this is about your business and how it can be integrated for social good. For example many companies have turned into education and helping thus others to understand a business sector or service.

One example is the German software company SAP (www.sap.com), which has run several courses to educate people to understand the software business but also the company products. This education aspect is also embedded in several leading universities like Harvard and Stanford. Another example is Microsoft(www.microsoft.com) with its Innovation Centers. These provide Mircrosoft education and products for different stakeholders globally.

This overall value mapping takes into account the different aspects of internal and external stakeholders and define the corporate responsibility strategy value added for each group.

3. Execute your strategy: Implementing your corporate responsibility strategy is a marathon not a journey. This Cradle to Cradle or lifecycle thinking is not a campaign, it is about your business and margins. It is about your competitive edge and license to make business in the future.

For CEOs corporate responsibility is important while they think it has huge impact in brand, trust and reputation (69%). Secondly CEOs think it has impact in potential revenue growth (49%) and customer demand (47%). And it can have positive impact in employer branding (38%) and motivation (41%). This survey was done by Accenture in 2013.

4. Communications & Marketing: Good brands can handle crisis better, this is known. But you need communications and marketing strategy which implement these messages to different stakeholders in order to enhance your visibility, attract talent and improve brand value.

One of the key elements in this strategic communication is how well the company can explain and follow the impacts of the products and be part of the circular economy. It is good to pay attention to issue management in your business sector.

Global initiatives like Better Cotton Initiatives by co-founders Ikea and WWF aim to use less water and chemicals and provide better earnings and social benefits for farmers in India and Pakistan. According to the IKEA press release, the company uses 0,6 % of the global cotton production every year and cotton in included in 30 % of the group´s products.

5. Feedback & improvements: Corporate responsibility is about change and risk management and it is like quality checks all the way.

To define an innovative corporate responsibility strategy needs good homework, analytics and data management. The bigger the company the more important data management is. Cloud computing or green cloud help companies in their journey to be part of the circular economy.


Apple focusing on innovation

logotestiIt seems to be that Apple is taking new steps with innovation. The recent announcements related to their interim report yesterday, co-operation with IBM with business customers and the M&A (Beats Audio) are all elements related to their earlier announcement with healthcare and new operating system.  It is really so that the autumn will be busy for all the market makers.

Apple has done a great three month period in China. For example Mac-computers and iPads showed a clear double-digit growth in China. Apple announced earlier this co-operation with China Mobile and as CEO Jim Cook said in the company presentation, China will play an important role in Apple´s growth. China Mobile has made big investments in the country´s 4 G network during the couple of years.

The stock price of Apple has increased by 20 percent during the last three months and the company has said it has been purchasing own shares by 8 billion dollars during that period. They expect the revenue to be between 37 – 40 billion dollars during the next quarter and margins 37 -38%. The markets are already looking at September when the new iPhone6 will be released.  The company also reported an increase in R&D, which was 313 million dollars.


How about a smart watch?


If we are used to use smart phones, would it be easy to use smart watches? Not necessarily. Although it is nice to have some functions in your wrist all the time, I found that it is important to think first what do you really want from these gadgets. Do you want to see all the emails and social media happenings or is it purely for the design, clock and phone elements? The functionalities in these smart watches are really different. So, there is no one size fits for all. But there is one important thing to remember, these watches are working with your mobile phone.

Maybe it is nice to see all the alerts, the incoming calls and maybe take a picture? Soon we all wear smart devices: in our ears, in our eyes and in our wrists.  This is already now the situation if you think about Google glasses, smartphones and smart watches. According to Strategy Analytics last year 1, 9 million smart watches were sold and the major market dominant was Samsung, with 61 per cent market share.

What kind of design there would be if the real watch makers like Rolex, Longines, Patek Philippe or Swatch would join the high tech industry with these products? One thing is sure: the watch should be traditional one, I mean with the functionalities, but the design and mobile phone elements would be extra elements with new thinking.  Oh, there are so many opportunities and looking forward to see one!

Päivi Härkönen



Employer branding is about building the total value


Employer branding is about the building of the total value of corporate assets. These intangible assets are becoming more and more important in M&A deals, getting the best talent and building the company brand and imago in the markets. We know that the younger generation has paid attention to these items for a long time, but I would say that the older generation is also moving towards this direction. Change has become an initial part of the HR and Communications Departments.

One essential part of employer branding is the engagement itself inside and outside the company. For company executives values are the most important guidance of everyday work in order to achieve the targets, whether they are financial or sustainable targets. And this needs engagement in different forms. One on ones, group meetings, intranet, HR magazine, interviews and surveys are the first tools to engage with employees and get the feeling what they are thinking about.

After these steps it is then easier to have different forms and functions to enhance the employer branding, inside and outside. I find different kind of unite initiatives the most rewarding ones for employees. The initiatives varies according to the industry sector and resources available. It is vital for corporations to think twice which NGOs or which public organizations are relevent to the business strategy. Public private co-opeartion has been one of the drivers in this field.

Employer branding is also about transparency, openness and communications. But it is also about how to measure the outcomes and how these actions have improved company´s overall reputation and brand value. And in the future it is more common to see sustainability targets embedded in the corporate targets and actions. And this needs new thinking; rethinking.

Päivi Härkönen



The early stage of mobile payments


Mobile payments, digital wallets are one of the topics in the digital world nowadays. The markets are still in early stage due to the lack of regulation, consumer perceptions of security and privacy and also due to the co-operation between banks, teleoperatos and e-commerce. It is interesting to see what kind of clusters the big players like Google, Apple and banks are forming at the moment. And not to mention Bitcoin, which has really been a distruptive company in the virtual money market.

These changes show that we are living in a big mobile wallet trend. The revolution of e-commerce, the rise of new digital growth companies and the changes in the financial community (the accelerating M&A operations  before the new Basel III rules). Finally, many of us would say. In the industry there have been talks about the wallets for over ten years ago. Changes, that involve many industry sectors, take time.

The latest news about the field show that now we can expect something to happen. For example the Accenture study found that the big US banks are moving to mobile transactions more and more. And according to consulting company McKinsey consumers are thinking about purchasing apps and other digital content to use mobile payments. The number of mobile wallets are primarily still one, but one can estimate that the number of digital wallets to grow per person in the near future. And different kind of ID elements have been developed:  for example Apple has made its TouchID  possible for virtual shopping in iTunes store.

The leading countries in this era are in Asia. Singapore, South Korea, Japan but also Canada (due to its effective co-operation between the different players in the field) are the countries to look at.  According to Mastercard all the different elements related to mobile payments are in place in these countries: consumers are keen to purchase apps and mobile & internet penetration is high.

More consumers are swifting from cash to mobile payments for one reason: it is simple and easy. Mobile payments, mobile ID and mobile security are the key words in the near future. In order to revolution this mobile payment to new growth levels, consumers have to rely on the security and privacy of the payment chain. The mobile payment ecosystem will have to show the reliability in order to become a mainstream.

It is estimated that the mobile payments markets are about 90 billion dollars by year 2017 by Forrester.

Päivi Härkönen