Nov 17 2007
Try try as he might, Steve Jobs and Apple can barely launch their hottest new product, the iPhone, before the Chinese have copied it and put a knockoff on the market as quickly as you can say “can you hear me now?” But what is Apple doing making a cell phone anyway? Isn’t the mobile phone market pretty much dominated by a few big name companies already? How will apple ever survive in a market with such well established firms as Nokia, Samsung, and Motorola?
The answer is through product differentiation. The iPhone is truly an innovative little gadget. More than an MP3 player, more than a cell phone, the iPhone has features that differentiate it from most products available from the established firms in the mobile phone market. Like any firm, Apple advertises its iPod through commercials and other media in order to inform consumers about what makes its product special. What message does the following advertisement send about the iPhone?
The table below shows the market shares of the larges mobile phone makers as of late last year (before the release of the iPhone). A simple calculation finds that the four firm concentration ratio in the mobile market was 75.6%, clearly putting the market in the realm of an oligopoly (a market in which the four firm concentration ration is 40%).
With 75% of the market being controlled by Nokia, Motorola, Samsung and Sony Ericsson, the question arises whether Apple will be able to overcome the barriers to entry in the mobile market and establish itself as one of the big boys. Apple’s strategy for profits and market penetration certainly leverages the power of product differentiation and non-price competition, both firm behaviors common among firms in oligopolistic markets.
To make matters worse for Apple, only months after the iPhones release, and in the midst of negotiations between Apple and China Mobile to officially launch the product in China, a cheap, 4 GB knock-off of the fancy device comes along to entice Chinese consumers away from the 5,000 RMB (nearly $700) real deal. Check this thing out… would you be able to tell the difference?
- What barriers to entry exist in the market for mobile phones?
- Why do you think so few firms produce mobile phones?
- Do you think Apple will be able to successfully penetrate the mobile market?
- What threat do cheaper “knock-offs” of the Apple iPhone pose to Apples attempts to compete in China’s mobile market?