Sony, LG, Disney all Tap into NFC; Concerns and Doubt Remain Amongst some PC OEMs

Analyst Blog

Feb. 1, 2013, 4:30 p.m.
John Devlin, Practice Director

It has been widely commented on that NFC is now happening (at last) - but how widespread is this mood of optimism?  I have lost count of the number of times friends have asked me "What can I do with my new phone?  It's got NFC but I don't know what to do with it?"

Google and Android continue to be the main driving force behind the growing installed base of devices, RIM (now Blackberry) is still a strong proponent of the technology and there is mounting evidence that Microsoft's WP8 OEM partners are also backing it.  Also, it is interesting to see how some OEMs are using NFC as a differentiator for their devices, both for the device itself but also in tandem with tags. 

As a (cautious) fan of the contactless technology I have been looking at various aspects of the market recently to see if is making a move beyond handsets.  Google (again) with its Nexus tablets and some other Android tablets appears to be leading the way.  Other OEMs seem less certain with several notable ones still evaluating the technology for use in their PC and tablet devices.  [More coverage and insight into issues affecting this will be available within my next couple of reports on this sector.]

Interestingly it appears that the straightforward pairing capability of NFC may be seeing it spread beyond these initial markets already.  A number of CE device OEMs have introduced models with NFC; Sony is perhaps the most innovative company in this respect although I know LG spoke to me of its grand plans for widespread inclusion of NFC across its entire product range last year.  Admittedly, Sony does have a vested interest as a NFC IC vendor and has already produced cameras, smart TVs, speakers and other products with NFC for tap and pair / share applications.  Another product (unfortunately only available in Japan at this time) that caught my eye was a new home server with NFC; an end-user can tap to synch on their way in/out of the house and can select content to take with them.

It will be interesting to see where other developers and hardware vendors will take this.  Nintendo's Wii U is a high profile example in the gaming sector and physical avatars/characters, such as Skylanders, have already hit the market with NFC tags incorporated.  Disney is another major brand to have tested the waters, both within its theme parks but also in relation to gaming and toys.

What all of these use cases have in common is that they make things simpler and more intuitive, provide a sleaker user experience and provide greater interaction.

More improtantly, soon when friends ask me "So I've got a new NFC phone but what can I do with it?" I will be able to change my answer from "Not a lot" to "Well, that depends on what you are into - pairing with your headset / car / speakers, info and content sharing, gaming, travel, work ID, commuting on the train, logging into your PC, vouchers and coupons, checking in, switching onto a WiFi network, driving to work, getting free multimedia content, social networking, and (maybe one day) paying for something in a shop."  Now that's not bad, is it?