The cellular handset division of Toshiba Corp has said it is “evaluating the smart phone arena,” with the aim of leveraging its strength in the laptop market.
Peter Ford, head of marketing for Toshiba Mobile Communications in EMEA, said the company currently offers mid- to high-end feature phones in the 2.5G and 2.5G/3G markets in Europe, a portfolio that comprises three handsets, all of them sold through Vodafone.
The phones are the TS921 and TS803, both of them 2.5G/3G, Vodafone-branded, and with by Toshiba in small print somewhere on the device, as well as the TS10, a 2.5G phone with Toshiba branding. However, at the CeBIT fair in Hannover, Germany next week, the Tokyo-based vendor will be showing some new phones that will target other operators in Europe and the GSM world generally.
Ford said the original deal with Vodafone, which was unveiled at last year’s CeBIT, was modeled on Toshiba’s relationship with Vodafone KK in Japan, where the operator provides the spec of what it wants and the manufacturer complies and supplies on an exclusive basis, with Vodafone branding to the fore. The first two phones launched with the operator were essentially localized versions of models Toshiba supplies to VKK in Japan, but now Toshiba wants to broaden its go-to-market strategy in Europe.
Next week’s event will see it exhibit more phones it can offer across the board. Even so, the devices will still be targeted primarily at the consumer market. The phones will have a proprietary OS to which third-party apps cannot be downloaded, but it is also looking at the smart phone space for business users, where an extensible OS would be required. At the moment the main focus is consumer, i.e. high-end feature phones, but it would be a logical extension to leverage our brand and presence in the business laptop market in the smart phone market, Ford said.
This raises the question of which OS Toshiba would use in any smart phone it developed. Between the two main choices, Symbian OS and Windows Mobile 5.0, the latter would appear to be a more natural choice because it would enable tighter integration with the vendor’s laptop offering, with the promise of app portability between the two platforms. Ford would not be drawn on eventual technology choices beyond saying that the company is still evaluating its options.