As president and CEO of Swedish telephone giant Ericsson, Kurt Hellstrm has his work cut out for him. While as much as a third of the world's cellular telephone traffic travels over Ericsson's switches and servers, the company lags rivals Nokia (of Finland) and United States-based Motorola in innovation and sales of actual cellular phones.
After months on the road, he found time to chat with Monitor staff writer Eric Evarts by phone from a business meeting in London.
I think we are in an interesting space right now, because we are on the edge of entering the next, third, generation of mobile communications - the mobile Internet.
"[But] I judge that we [face] an uphill comeback [as a company]. So we are trying to broaden the base. The US is still lagging behind Europe in cellular-telephone penetration. [But] I think there was a big change in the US last year and the year before, when the popular one-rate plans started to appear.
"We believe that mobility is going to be the fastest-growing area ... [because of] the convenience, tailor-made for individuals.
"And we are trying to distinguish ourselves on the cellular-telephone side.... That's where the competition will be strong.
"We have to compete [on price]. And customers are attracted by interesting models.
"Last year we doubled the number of models. We have an MP3 player that can be attached to a mobile phone, and [a product] that allows you to send short [text] messages via telephone. And there are other things in the [higher price ranges].
"We are working on [customizing] phone cosmetics, also.
"Ericsson's future is in the mobile Internet; ... 75 percent of Ericsson, and most of our investment in R&D is [devoted to it].
"With mobile or cellular, there will be lots of different services that normal people will be quite happy with. You can trade stocks or trade information about stocks over the Internet.
"You can get your sports results; you can make your travel [arrangements], buy your tickets, and so on -wherever you are, and whatever time you want. And these will be popular.
"By the end of this year, it will be available on virtually a global basis.
"And Ericsson is interested to promote any kind of traffic in these applications, [since] we are the ones that 'enable' most of the infrastructure."
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society