I really feel for Motorola. We've been monitoring its decline and somehow the grand ole Moto has just disappointed quarter after quarter. And I do want to take lessons from it if we can. So I dug through the Q1 Earning's Call for critical Motorola details to get more to the bottom of their plight.
This is what we knew from their Quarterly Results for Q1 of 2010. Motorola sold 8.5 million mobile phone handsets (down from 12M in Q4). They reported 2.3 million smartphones (up from 2M) which leaves us with 6.2 million dumbphones sold in Q1. Motorola reported 1.6 billion dollars of revenues for the handset division in Q1, and in the Earnings Call they verified their Average Selling Price was 192 dollars (technically speaking, for exactly 1.6 billion dollars and 8.5 million handsets gives an ASP of 188 dollars, but with a bit of rounding off error, like 1.625 billion dollar sales and 8.47 million units, we get 192 dollar ASP, its close enough).
From the Earnings Call we get a few interesting tidbits. We learned that 66% of all revenues came from the USA ie 1.05 Billion dollars. We learned that the US product mix generated half of the revenues from smartphones and half from dumbphones. Then we also learned that two thirds of all smartphone unit sales were sold in the USA. So out of 2.3 million smartphones sold globally, two thirds or 1.5 million were sold in the USA. And these accounted for half of the US revenues ie 525 million dollars.
With these numbers we can calculate the average sales price of a Motorola smartphone at 351 dollars, and then calculate out the average price of Motorola dumbphones at 128 dollars. With these figures we can also then get total regional sales of US unit shipments and total sales revenues by dumbphones and smartphones. And the same for the rest of the world.
So I get these numbers:
MOTOROLA HANDSET SALES USA VS REST OF WORLD
Dumbphones average price $128 sold 4.1M units generated $525M
Smartphones average price $351 sold 1.5M units generated $525M
Total Moto phones average price $192M sold 5.6M units generated $1.05B
Note Motorola US market share in phones for Q1 about 11%
REST OF WORLD SALES
Dumbphones average price $128 sold 2.1M units generated $275M
Smartphones average price $351 sold 0.8M units generated $275M
Total Moto phones average price $192M sold 2.9M units generated $550M
Note Motorola Rest of World market share in phones for Q1 about 1%
TOTAL MOTOROLA SALES
Dumbphones average price $128 sold 6.2M units generated $800M
Smartphones average price $351 sold 2.3M units generated $800M
Total Moto phones average price $192M sold 8.5M units generated $1.6B
Note Motorola global market share in phones for Q1 about 2.8%
Now, please bear in mind, that the world market for mobile phones was about 325 million handsets and back in 2006 Motorola had 21% market share globally which would have been 68 million mobile phones. If distributed evenly, it means Motorola should have had about 21% in all markets. In America Motorola has seen new rivals especially Apple with its iPhone. South Koreans Samsung and LG now outsell Motorola in dumbphones at home and North American rivals RIM and Apple outsell Motorola in smartphones. But you could say that Motorola has 'only' lost half of its market in North America (which is not strictly speaking true, as Motorola has traditionally had its best market share in America, it was probably near half in 2006). But from a global perspective, lets be kind, and say Moto has kept about half its market share in North America, when comparing the market failure in the past 3 years.
RETREATS FROM ABROAD
What happened elsewhere. Three years ago Moto was also about one in five phones sold in the rest of the world. The rest of the world sells far more phones than North America. In fact the rest of the world is 8 times bigger as a phone market than North America. How did Moto fare there? It lost 19 out of every 20 Moto customers in the rest of the world, that is what happened.
It is very clear, that a powerful global brand Motorola has retreated from almost all shores and now only fights for the US market (where it is also losing but not as badly). Think about it, if once Motorola's market share in countries like Germany, France, Brazil, Russia, India, Australia etc was about 20%, and today it is 1% - and this in only 3 years - gosh, that is corporate market share suicide. I don't know if we have ever seen any global brand vanish so quickly except those that were caught in some global fraud or bankruptcy (like say Enron or Worldcom). Even Toyota for all its troubles managed to hold onto most of its customers globally haha.
Motorola has become a North American brand almost exclusively. It could not match the international appeal of global brands like Nokia, Samsung and LG. Please observe, where the world outside of the USA only bought 3 million Motorola phones, they bought over 100 million Nokia phones and they bought over 50 million Samsung phones in Q1. And please bear in mind, compared to the phone market of 2006, the mobile phone handset industry has expaned by about 25%. This has been the best growth-market in tech all through the economic recession and all. The market grew, Motorola failed.
And three years ago, Motorola's global market share would have given them roughly 50 million unit sales outside of North America too. But we are seeing the global phone market sort itself out, into regional pretenders and global players. I think SonyEricsson has seen a similar shift, they once had 10% to 15% of all markets including the USA, now they have retreated to mainly Europe. And newcomer to the Top 5 biggest handset makers (already bigger than Moto and SE) is Chinese ZTE, who get most of their business out of their domestic China market, and are gaining market share in many very low-cost markets internationally like India and Africa. So again the regional pattern. SonyEricsson is Europe, Moto is North America and ZTE is Emerging Markets. Interesting specializiation. And against those, there are 3 giants who sell in almost all markets: Nokia, Samsung and LG.
THE CHINA SYNDROME
Now, I was the first analyst to discover where Apple had sold its 'missing million' units of iPhone smartphones in Q1 of 2010 (I call it the missing million, because about 40 forecasters and analysts projecting iPhone sales for this past quarter, literally all got it wrong, under-estimating Apple's actual iPhone unit sales by well over a million. I was one of the most accurate forecasters, with my forecast of 7.4 million units vs Apple's actual 8.75 million, my error was only 1.35 million missing iPhones. The average forecast was for 7.1 million and many forecasted iPhone sales in the 6+ million range, thus missing about 2 million iPhone sales in just one quarter). And just to prove we were not totally bonkers, the biggest market for iPhone, the USA, and its exclusive dealer, AT&T, reported exactly the expected decline of 13% in iPhone activations in Q1. The pattern did hold for Apple in most of its markets but something strange happened this year 2010. There was a sudden, totally unanticipated surge in iPhone sales, of more than a million units of iPhones. The missing million.
I went on a search and dug into the numbers and found a plausible explanation, that the missing million were new China iPhone sales that didn't exist last year. We won't know for a fact until we hear from Apple's exclusive China network operator/carrier China Unicom. But the data seems very consistent from all angles and sources. And I found the explanation why sudden China sales this year? Its because the Chinese culture does not celebrate tradtional 'Western' Christmas as their main gift-giving season, but rather Lunar New Year (ie 'Chinese New Year') with its traditional cash-enclosed 'red envelopes' as the most common gift to relatives and friends. Recently newly affluent wealthy and middle-class Chinese, in particular in cities like Shanghai and Beijiing and here in Hong Kong, have taken to giving luxury oriented gifts to their dearest for Lunar New Year. And this year the Lunar New Year happened on 14 February (Year of the Tiger). We do know that Apple openly admitted that its China sales this Q1 was the market that grew where other markets declined in revenues after the Christmas Quarter of 2009. And my analysis of the mix of Macs, iPods and iPhones suggests most of that revenue was indeed iPhones in Q1. But like I said, we won't know for sure untl China Unicom reports its installed base of iPhones (which was only 200,000 by end of 2009, so it will be easy to calculate haha)
Well, while many came here to ridicule me, we had a surprising independent confirmation of my hypothesis by the world's biggest maker of smartphones and of mobile phones in general, Nokia. They actually wrote in their Q1 earnings results supporting documents that the reason why Nokia sales in Q1 grew in China but declined in all other markets, was due to the Chinese Lunar New Year gift-giving. I think this serves as very solid proof of my concept.
Incidentially why this year 2010 and not last year in smartphones? We did not observe it with Apple because Apple only started to sell iPhones in China last year in the autumn. Why not Nokia smartphone sales? Because China also launched 3G only last year, so for them before that most smartphones were pretty pointless on the slow 2G networks. But now the new 3G phones are the must-have devices and Nokia has even released one China-specific 3G model which runs on China's domestic 3G standard, TD-SCDMA (used by China Mobile, one of the 3 main carriers/operators with 3G licenses)
The interesting part is now what of Motorola. Strangely compared to the rest of the big mobile phone markets, Motorola's brand has been far stronger in China than most other markets outside of North America. So while Moto lost customers in Europe for example, and in many advanced Asian markets like Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong; they kept holding onto a strong part of their China presence. I understand that this is typical of many USA based brands in China, that they are held in very high esteem there. I am not a branding expert haha, but it seems so. Anyway, China was regularly a good market for Motorola, where its market share would exceed the levels in other markets outside of the USA. Was there perhaps a China bonus to Motorola this Q1? I do think so.
MOTOROLA IN CHINA
There is one more interesting tidbit that came out of Motorola's Earnings Call. They reported that China was the best market for smartphones after the USA in Q1. This, inspite of their 3 smartphone models of China not being available from the start of the quarter, they added models during the quarter. When pressed by an analyst in a follow-up question, Motorola confirmed that China did not account for half of the rest, but was the biggest of the remaining markets. And Motorola specifically said their smartphones were not selling well in Europe or other parts of Asia. That after China they did well in Latin America, with only very modest presence in Europe.
What can we take from that? We know its the biggest market remaining, but not quite 50%. Was it 45% or 40% or 35% or 30%? I think its safe to assume its more than a quarter, else they'd suggest that level. If we take the average of those guesses, we'd get 37.5%. What amount of the non-USA 800,000 Motorola smartphones is 37.5%? Its exactly 300,000. Why is this an important number? Motorola's smartphone sales in Q4 of 2009 was 2 million. In Q1 it was 2.3 million. Voila! The China Syndrome gave Motorola a totally un-anticipated Lunar New Year gift of 15% growth and 300,000 bonus unit sales of smartphones. Thjis is exactly the same pattern as we saw surprising bonus smartphone sales in China with Apple and with Nokia.
Now the really important part - if the Lunar New Year gift-giving pattern is indeed really the reason why Apple, Nokia and now Motorola received a strong counter-global trend surge in China sales of smartphones in Q1, due to Lunar New Year gift-giving, then obviously just like the rest of the world experiences after Christmas unit sales declines in the next quarter (ie from Q4 to Q1), for China smartphones, we can expect a similar significant decline from Q1 to Q2. All big smartphone brands of China, like Nokia, Apple and Motorola - should see a China-specific unit sales decline for Q2, but one that brings China roughly in line with the rest of the world. For Nokia and Apple that is not 'bad news' because they sell in all major markets, which should have normal sequential growth from Q1 to Q2, to balance against a decline in China. For Motorola, however, there is no other market for smarpthones to support decline from China, other than the US market. Moto is very exposed now.
Two very important lessons here for Motorola. Its bonus sales of 300,000 extra smartphones in China is not sustainable. The next such bonus comes in 2011 for Lunar New Year. So China sales of Motorola smartphones will decline in Q2. If that is the best market for Motorola outside of America, that spells trouble in my book. Meanwhile, if Motorola has already all but given up on the two biggest smartphone markets (both are bigger than the US market in smartphone unit sales), ie Europe and Asia (excluding China) - then Motorola truly is - what is that word that rhymes with 'ducked'?
Motorola has appointed a new China head - who comes in too late now and cannot obviously create a second Lunar New Year for China in Q2 haha. This is like RAZR all over again. Motorola does not understand its markets and cannot take advantage of them. Motorola promises investors it will sell between 12 million and 14 million smartphones this year. Is that in any way feasible?
Tomi but we heard Motorola is shifting from dumbphones to smartphones. Its future is smartphones and they grew smartphone sales 15% from Q4 in 2009. Yes, Motorola is trying to turn a global mass-market brand into a luxury brand. Its like say US mass market carmaker brand Chrysler trying to become luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz. How did that succeed? Here in smartphones it is most clear how Motorola has failed utterly.
Take the math. Its not whether smartphones grew sales. Its the transition from dumbphones to smartphones. That is Motorola's mission. We have the numbers. How did it go? For every additional smartphone that Motorola was able to sell in the past 3 months, it lost TEN, repeat TEN dumbphones! For Motorola just to break even on this suicidal strategy, they would have to convert at least one out of every 3 dumbphone owners into smartphone owners. Even so, if this strategy were to succeed - in other words, Motorola was somehow able to suddenly get 3 times better conversion of their customer base next quarter than in the past - they would cut their total market size down to one third. So, if all goes 'perfectly' for Motorola in converting the remaining dumbphone users, then Motorola would end up with 4.4 million total handsets (all smartphones) for one quarter and an annual sales level of 18 million.
At 18 million total sales annually, Motorola would be far out of the Top 10 obviously in handset makers.
And even among smartphone makers, Samsung has already upped its smartphone unit sales target for this year from 18 million to 24 million - and Motorola never promises that level, Motorola targets between 12 million and 14 million. So already today, Motorola's management is concedeing first place of smartphones to Nokia who sold 67 million smartphones last year, second place to RIM who sold 35 million smartphones last year, third place to Apple who sold 24 million smartphones last year, fourth place to Samsung somewhere near 24 million this year - and fifth place to HTC which already outsells Motorola on the same Android platform by 1.5 to 1, and is so bullish on their growth numbers for Q2, that HTC will probably end up selling twice as many smartphones as Motorola this year. So before we consider any impacts of Google Nexus One or Microsoft Kin or HP with Palm, or LG's aggressive move to Android, Motorola has already conceded the top 5 of smartphones to its rivals. Last spring when Motorola announced its bold smartphones strategy, it was 5th ranked total mobile phones maker. Now it admits it can't even hope to be a Top 5 smartphones maker? How badly is this strategy executed? Could it be executed any more badly?
Note, this is the best case for Motorola. This ignores the crash I predict for after Chinese Lunar New Year sales. This assumes a far more successful conversion of customers from dumbphones to smartphones - note, that Nokia has a better market share in smartphones globally, than it does in dumbphones globally. There we see excellence in migrating the dumbphone customer base to smartphones.
A SMALL US BASED SMARTPHONE MAKER, PALM REVISITED?
So Motorola admits its European and (non-China) Asian markets are failing the smartphone strategy. The next best market for Motorola after China is Latin America (a relatively small smartphone market dominated by Nokia and RIM).
Now we do know for a fact, that currently two thirds of all Motorola branded phones are sold in the US market. And that two thirds of all handset revenues are generated in the US. I remember writing on this blog very recently, that Apple was "too much dependent on the US market" when they only sold about 4 out of every ten smartphones in the USA. Motorola once had a world presence. They have totally retreated and now only are able to sell in North America (meanwhile Apple keeps making great advances abroad and today two out of every 3 iPhones is sold to the rest of the world).
So how is Moto's smartphone doing, in re-energizing the world brand? I do not have the exact split of US vs World smarpthone market (yet) but roughly speaking, Motorola has about 11% of new smartphone sales in the US market in Q1 of 2010. That is far behind market leaders RIM and Apple. Even in its best market, Motorola is at best in 3rd place, very likely in 4th place behind HTC which also claims the USA as its best market. And if Palm sells in the sub-one-million level, mostly in the US, now with HP, how long before HP-Palm willl outsell Motorola's 1.5 million smartphone sales level in the US market? This is Moto's very best evidence of their 'strategy' in their best market, under their best-case scenario, BEFORE the big battle for the US smartphone space heats up this summer when the new iPhone launches, Microsoft's Kin phones come to the market, etc.
Rest of the world. Its time to start to weep now. Motorola's smartphones have managed - including the amazing China surge - a devastating 2% market share in smartphones! That is where the big market is, Europe, Asia and rest of the world, far bigger than the US market for smartphones. Nokia, RIM and Apple rule there, and dozens of other smartphone makers offer smartphones like Samsung, LG, HTC, ZTE, Huawei, SonyEricsson, Toshiba, Fujitsu, Panasonic, Sharp, NEC, Pantech, INQ, etc - and Motorola's grand strategy gives them 2% of this non-US world market in smartphones. No, this 'strategy' is failing Motorola comprehensively.
Then nobody will want the brand anymore. It has lost all its cool and appeal. The carriers don't want it anymore. The sales and support organization cannot sustain the levels the carriers were accustomed to when Motorola sold one out of every 5 phones. Now with 2% in smartphones, thats one out of every 50 phones sold. As Motorola's support ability diminishes, so too is its last remaining ability to support sales. We saw how quickly Siemens (once a Top 5 mobile phone maker globally) vanished when its death-spiral started in mobile phones.
And then Moto will be only a US based smartphone maker selling a couple of million units per year making perennial losses quarter after quarter. To me this spells 'Palm'. Except that with Palm there was their own operating system. With Motorola even that is gutted out, with Android powering its smartphone strategy.
HINDSIGHT IS EASY
I don't mean to be a Monday-Morning Quarterback. I did write an Open Letter to Motorola begging them to change course, and also warned them their smartphones strategy would backfire. But its not what some old ex Nokia dude has been writing on some obscure tech blog. Lets compare 3 rival global handset makers. How did intelligent mobile phone manufacturer management handle the same situation. I don't mean we look at the newcomers like Apple or RIM who directly entered the smarpthones market never making 'dumbphones'. What of Motorola's biggest rivals. We have 3 out of the 4 with very different strategic paths.
Nokia saw the smartphones opportunity and arguably created it. They joined with then world's biggest PDA maker HP over 15 years ago to create the Nokia Communicator 9000, the first fully converged palmtop computer and cellular phone, the iconic launch of the smartphone segment. The brick-weight monster phone was over 2.5 times more expensive than anything else on the market, but introduced real internet web surfing on a VGA width screen and QWERTY keypad on the ultra-luxury price bracket business-only smartphone. This was way way WAY back in 1997, four years before RIM would launch the first Blackberry. Nokia also saw the need for a smartphone OS, and collected its rivals to join in the Symbian partnership which it then later bought and set up as an open source based OS foundation. Nokia studied the emerging smartphone market and discovered the consumer-oriented segment - and four years before we had an iPhone, we had the world's first consumer-only-oriented smartphone, with its app store, etc. That was N-Gage, an initiative that also later spawned the consumer premium phones division of N-Series and now the Ovi apps and content store that is second only to iPhone's App Store in downloads. Nokia soon achieved a better market share in its smartphone sales than in its dumbphones and today sells four out of every 10 smartphones sold worldwide. They have also aggressively pursued every smartphone strategy option, not always with perfect execution (and even occasional market failures like N-Gage) but Nokia went in fully into smartphones a dozen years ago. They now utterly dominate the smartphone space globally.
So, what if you didn't want to go Smartphones full speed, was there an alternate and less risky stratetgy that also got you higher average sales prices for dumbphones? That is SonyEricsson's strategy. They were part of the Symbian partnership and recently also launched Android smartphones, but most of SonyEricsson's premium priced phones were not smartphones, they were luxury featurephones. The Walkman branded musicphones and Cybershot branded cameraphones. This strategy was very successful for SonyEricsson in 2005-2006-2007 generating significant market share gains and higher revenues and profits. Unfortunately for SonyEricsson, the one super brand in musicplayers, Apple and its iPod, entered the phone space in 2007,a nd instantly SonyEricsson's Walkman phones were relegated to also-ran status. SonyEricsson's market share, revenues and profits plummetted, being perhaps the biggest casualty to the iPhone in the phone industry. But until Apple joined the industry, SonyEricsson's strategy was prudent. Today we hear of a resurgence strategy to try a similar rebirth through the PlayStation Portable brand and gaming phones. And at least today even if very slightly, SonyEricsson is back to profits in its handset unit. It took the severe hit of the iPhone in 2008 and 2009, and recovered. But if Apple had not joined the industry, SonyEricsson could well be the global media-phone brand leader. That was the trend they were on back in 2006-2007.
The third strategy is the 'wait and see but be prepared' cautious way. A fast responder approach. This is Samsung. They had been making smartphones on each of the three big operating systems that had multiple manufacturers ie Symbian, Windows Mobile and Android. They ranked 5th among smartphone makers with only about 5% market share. But they monitored the market and learned it and kept their brand in the mix, in all markets. Then when it became clear that smartphones would be big, Samsung didn't just pretend to play in the space, they took it seriously. Samsung understood strategic intent. To quote Heinz Guderian the German tank general credited with inventing Blitzkrieg (and later adapted by Storming Norman and Shwartzkopf and Colin Powell into the Desert Storm war strategy of 'Shock and Awe'. Guderian said of tank actions in war 'don't tickle, smash' (Nicht kleckern, sondern klotzen'). Go full speed, total commitment.
If you are Samsung (or Motorola) and have watched Nokia go and take 40% of the smartphone market globally, and you have been a minor player in the market, and then in 2009 you decide to go in, then you go in with total commitment and hard. Samsung announced last year they will create their own smartphone operating system (Bada). And now they have already stated at the start of the year, that they intend to tripple their smartphone sales in just one year and sell 18 million smartphones this year. Thats commitment! And not just that, consider this, Samsung has already upgraded that goal to 24 million within 3 months of the first goal being announced. This is what Guderian meant by not tickling, but smashing.
No, this is the end of the road for Motorola. The company has failed its strategy and will pass into the history books, probably sold at some point. The buyers best advice is to wait - every subsequent quarter will be worse for Motorola and its purchase price should similarly sink.
I do want to make the point here, that I have advised Motorola many times over the years and they have admitted to using me as one of their consultants, so they are a 'reference customer' of mine. I do not pull my punches, and I have been very open about my disagreement with Motorola's recent direction and blogged here for example with an open letter to how they should have gone. I also count several other handset makers as my reference customers including Nokia and RIM.
So there, this was the 'autopsy' of the rotting corpse that was once the proud US standard-bearer of the mobile industry. I see too many parallels to other once proud US mobile telecoms brands like Lucent, Nortel, Palm etc. This is a shame. Once again, a US giant thought that if they make their company conform to the US market needs, it will then succeed internationally. The exact opposite is needed. A US (or North American) company needs to learn international needs and adjust to those. That is the way to grow into a global giant, like RIM which today IDC has reported in their global handset sales numbers, have indeed kicked Motorola out of the Top 5 (And even passed SonyEricsson). And following in RIM's footsteps, Apple has made continuous adjustments to its iPhone to appeal to international markets, in particular Japan and Europe, and also already passed Motorola as now the biggest phone maker based in the USA. Hello Moto, Goodbye Moto.