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« Celebrating 50 years of computers in Finland, and a bit of general history with a twist.. | Main | Digging deeper on Nokia being biggest computer maker, lets compare smartphones to older computers »

December 26, 2008


Roland Tanglao

as always, amazing "ahead of the curve" analysis"!

happy holidays! ...Roland


You are right on all points. Smartphones are computers, etc...

Another conclusion I would add: entrance of big players is NOT from the top (e.g. where is IBM or Cray now ?), it is from the bottom, the small things that get so numerous they absorb the big ones. So look and the landscape today, take a snapshot and imagine... Intel or Texas Instruments ? etc...

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Roland and Philippe

Thank you for the kind comments. And yes, Philippe good point the small ones are the victors usually in this kind of transition. I remember seeing once the market evolution of computer hard drives, and with every generational shift, the old big maker lost out and the new smaller player mastered the newer format and took the global lead - only to lose it in the next transition. We see this trend all the time in technology evolution ha-ha..

Thank you for comments

Tomi Ahonen :-)

Will Sandstrom

A mega fantastic read. Now kindly read about many items that we American-Finn bloggers gathered by not only attending educational institutions--some having attained PhDs--but having near assuredly walked the walk in the dark alleys of Finno-Ugric history, from Egypt to Finland and elsewhere. Will


by you definition my microwave oven should be considered a computer. its easy to get carried away with statistics.

Oh BTW: you do know there is an AUTO INDUSTRY, most Nay ALL cars produced these days have very powerfull computers onboard, far more computer power that was available to put man on the moon.

My high end digital watch probably has more processing power than than the computer on the lunar lander.

So when you consider the vast number of common computer packages in car's they would probably out sell your rather odd figures.

Plus: and cell phone is a cell phone, not a computer, if you want to play that game you have to either include everything with embedded cpu's in it not none of them.

I dont consider a car a computer, nor do i consider a phone a computer, its a phone.

but i do agree the processing power of these devices is impressive. and they do have applications.

but there are much more than cell phones, printers, cars, camera's, microwave ovens, even credit cards !!

so you really just comparing applies with oranges,


Did Darryl even bother to read the article before posting his silly response? The argument about where the cutoff is between a computer and an embedded CPU was quite well covered.


Have you included also Nokia S40 devices? They are as much as a smartphone that iPhone is.

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Will, Darryl, Rodney and jamppa

Thank you all for the comments. I'll reply to each individually:

Will - thanks, yes, good stuff. I did do a big "celebration" of Finnish accomplishments in the computer industry in the 50 years of computers blog (which is very long, and I got carried away over Christmas break on the preparatory side, so it has quite a comprehensive review of the computer industry globally, first, before getting to the Finnish side, and the Finnish contributions).

Of course this blogsite is dedicated to the industries around digital communities and social networking, and related concepts from engagement marketing to digital convergence. So I think I'm already stretching the issue quite a lot when I discuss the early computer industry ha-ha, and going beyond that into Fenno-Ugric (for those not familiar with the term, this is the small tribe of peoples from the Ural Mountains in Russia, part of who emigrated West and settled in Hungary, Estonia and Finland - ie we four groups are related ethnically and are totally unrelated to other Europeans such as the Germanic peoples such as the Germans, French, British, Scandinavians, Spanish, Italian etc - and the Slavic people like the Russians, Polish etc. As a small ethnic group, we also take great pride in our collective heritage, so there is a lot about the history of the Fenno-Ugrics and where they have had an influence in the past...)

Darryl - I think Rodney already replied to you rather well, but yes, let me be very specific. You you made four arguments and said:

The Auto industry. Yeah, sure, the modern car has a lot of microprocessors to control anything from the anti-lock brakes to the fuel efficiency of the car. But my point was not that a smartphone is a computer, because it has a CPU, I said it was a smartphone because it could be programmed (ie software installed). By that definition the car or your microwave or digital watch is not a computer, it does have CPUs with impressive computing power, but those processors are hard-wired to do only a single task. The modern DVD player is equally a microprocessor-guided device with many of the elements of a computer, but we as users cannot alter its use from playing DVDs (and CDs) so it does not count as a computer.

A smartphone - not all cellphones, but a smartphone - does accept software applications that can be installed, to turn it into a word processor (and with a bluetooth enabled keyboard and TV-out to a regular TV set, it totally replaces a computer in such use) or a spreadsheet or other common PC applications, not to mention email, web browsing etc. No, the car argument is not valid, car processors are not user-programmable.

Digital watch - falls for the same reason as the car. Most digital watches are hard-wired to only show time (and other similar tasks like a calendar). Are not computers, are like a regular cellphone is only a phone with some enhanced features, but is not user-programmable like a smartphone is.

"Cell phone is a cell phone, not a computer" - this sounds very familiar. First, please note, that for all of those who prefer to send SMS text messages rather than place voice calls, the cell phone is no longer "just a cell phone" as they existed a decade ago. It has evolved into a new type of gadget, far more capable than "just a phone". The cellphone itself has already evolved. Now add the camera feature. The most common camera resolution of new phone models in the UK in December 2008, was 3 megapixels. There are 1.9 billion cameraphones in use (vs under 200 million stand-alone digital cameras) so for the vast majority of the population worldwide, their only camera, is the one on their cameraphone. So while a decade ago, a cellphone was only a phone, now it is the most common type - while very limited in capacity obviously - of snapshot camera. No, Darryl, the cellphone today is far more than just a phone.

"there are much more than cell phones, printers, cars, camera's, microwave ovens, even credit cards"

Actually you are wrong on all but one of those counts. There are only about 950 million PCs (may have passed 1 billion end of 2008, the new numbers aren't out yet). So even if we assume everyone who owns a PC - and note some of these are owners with two PCs such as a desktop at home, and a laptop - but if we assume the total ratio is 1:1 for printers to computers, the world population of printers is less than a billion today. But there are 4 billion cellphone subscribers with 3.4 billion unique phones (some have two subscriptions but only one phone).

The others you list, cars - the world total car fleet is about 850 million. Cameras, there are about 200 million digital cameras, and another under 100 million film-based reusable cameras, and they sold about 1.4 billion disposable cameras at its peak in 2004, so no, there are nowhere near more cameras than cellphones. Microwave ovens, well, the world population of TV sets is 1.4 billion, and I'm certain more homes have a TV set than a microwave so the number of microwaves is far less than cellphones. Credit cars, yes the total number is somewhere near 3 billion, there are about 1.6 billion unique holder of a credit card (mostly employed adults in the Industrialized World, who tend to have 3 or 4 credit cards per person). But even here, 4 billion total subscribers of cellphones, and 3.0 unique subscribers (discounting all multiple subscriptions and all multiple cellphone owners).

And you can't argue a credit card is a computer (today), it only has a memory chip, not a processor, so at best you could equate it with a memory stick, not a full computer by any definition.

Apples and oranges, I really don't think so. A modern smartphone - not all cellphones, but one like the iPhone, can be used pretty well like a laptop, not as good in everything, but almost any use that normal consumers put their laptop today, can also be done on the iPhone. Why not then count it as a smaller computer.

Rodney - thanks, yeah, Darryl didn't seem to read the article.

jamppa - good point. Yes, many S40 devices also fit the definition, which would explode the total base of pocketable computers for the Nokia brand, but the problem is that there is not a good breakdown of the types (that I've seen at least) so the best I can do is to count those smartphones (series 60) that are reported in the industry. The real number could easily far bigger if all equivalent devices were counted.. Maybe Nokia will give us that number some day ha-ha..

Thank you all for writing

Tomi Ahonen :-)


There are so many means to compare the sizes of companies: E.g. Market value for Nokia is $ 16,487,952,320 and for Apple $ 82,768,737,850.

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I never see nokia brand computer in China,how can Nokia be the No.1 in the computer market in 2008?

Refurbished Computer

My personal experience of Dell computers is very good because it is cheap with lots of features.

cheap computers

I think it is a fair measure to include smart phones.

cheap computers

The mobile phone and the personal computer market converging and that because millions of people have their first Internet experience on a phone, this somehow suggests that Nokia should jump into the laptop game.

used computers

the mobile phone and the personal computer market converging and that because millions of people have their first Internet experience on a phone, this somehow suggests that Nokia should jump into the laptop game.

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refurbished computers

I really don't think so. A modern smartphone not all cellphones, but one like the iPhone, can be used pretty well like a laptop, not as good in everything, but almost any use that normal consumers put their laptop today, can also be done on the iPhone.

used computers

My high end digital watch probably has more processing power than than the computer on the lunar lander.

Ernesto Reyes

A smart analysis and record tallied for biggest computer maker. But let us all think that a normal person is satisfied even to have at least a Nokia brand for the phone, nothing more. For having that can make their life easier than the usual.

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