Sagem Aims to Beat Rivals With Speed

Sagem Wireless, the successor company to French phone maker Sagem, is reinventing itself as a white-label company with a strong research and development team it hopes will help it beat rivals to market with new ideas.
The company, now majority-owned by technology venture capital firm Sofinnova Partners, will make phones that customers such as Vodafone, Sony Ericsson or Porsche Design will market under their own brands.
Sagem, a survivor among once-thriving European phone companies that included units of Siemens, Alcatel and Philips, says it has phones in the pipeline including one that can last a month on standby without being charged. Under Chief Executive Thierry Buffenoir, Sagem Wireless has slimmed down to 470 people from 3,000 but still has a contract with the company that took over its R&D team, and will choose a outsourcing manufacturing partner later this year. Buffenoir told Reuters that Sagem’s continuing access to R&D expertise will allow it to bring innovative products to market faster than bigger rivals, thanks to its ability to modify the software around the chipsets at the heart of its phones.
"Frankly speaking, Sagem cannot compete on the left with tier one – we’re too small, not a huge brand – and cannot compete on the right with ultra-low cost companies." "We have to concentrate on niche markets where the big, tier-one companies are not there," he said. He said Sagem would aim to use its small size and nimbleness to bring innovative phones to market faster than bigger rivals, as quickly as six months, and to get out and chase the next idea when those bigger rivals followed. "The idea of Sagem is… to be present during the first six months, the first year with this kind of technology… and to leave the market to switch to another when the big companies decide to come to this technology." Sagem’s other plans include making mobile phones with integrated solar cells, which it wants to produce by the end of the year, and making phones that use fingerprint recognition instead of a password to unlock.

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