The significance of Google's Android

AndroidGoogle is not an internet search firm. It’s a broker of advertising inventory.

Google makes money by building inventory (i.e. white space on web, print and radio) and auctioning off inventory to advertisers. Search is merely the means to create a boundless amount of inventory and attract billions of eyeballs to it. All Google products including Docs, Maps, iGoogle, Gmail, GTalk and News Alerts are strategies to increase the amount of inventory and attract more eyeballs.

The Android operating system for mobile phones is no different. It’s a platform for building and channeling inventory, much like a web browser. In fact we could say that Android is similar to a browser on steroids, in that it allows developers to easily build any connected handset application anywhere within the mobile user journey, and within those create more inventory.

So why is Google spending more than 200 man years building a complete operating system, instead of building just a browser for mobile phones or even a downloadable application, like an on-device portal ? Because browsers on mobile handsets are used for a tiny percentage of the time, probably less than 5% of the time the user spends on their phone. 95% or more of the user journey is taken up by the contacts application, idle screen, main menu, calendar, inbox and settings. In parallel, with Android, Google is addressing the need of handset manufacturer for an operating system they can control (it’s licensed under APL2), that’s low-cost (it’s free), that reduces time to market for variants (see the declarative XML UI framework and developer platform). Plus, Android is backed by Google, a heavyweight vendor who can support OEMs during launch of multi-million units.

What’s so special about Android ?
Android is different to other OSes, including Windows Mobile, Symbian/S60/UIQ, the Linux variants and proprietary OSes (Nucleus, EMP, BREW, etc) in several ways:

– The declarative XML UI framework enables developers and handset manufacturers to rapidly develop the user interface for new applications.

– The Android SDK is an environment for building connected applications. Every application (including dialler, idle screen, SMS, contacts, etc) can consume and produce content. Every application on Android is a Web 2.0 citizen.

– The Android source code will be licensed under the Apache 2.0 license, a non-copyleft license which allows handset manufacturers to modify the source code without being forced to share back their modifications. This is in complete contrast to GPL v2 and GPL v3 which is a copyleft license (see our white paper); Sun applied the GPLv2 license to its Java ME implementation, which is the reason why not a single handset OEM is using it.

– Android allows developers to program against the familiar Java SE library of APIs (the desktop version of the Java libraries), which is much broader and more powerful than Java ME, the mobile version. Much like SavaJe (now Sun’s Java FX Mobile), Android is a Java SE -like platform built on a Linux kernel, but more importantly one where the Java platform is deeply integrated with the underlying Linux support package. In other words, the Java SE-like platform is a native application platform for Android phones. Symbian may arrogantly dismiss Android as yet another Linux initiative, but the breadth and depth of Java APIs is something Symbian never managed to get right. And unlike the FX Mobile platform, Android has several OEMs who are planning to build handsets on it.

– Android is not only a departure from Java ME development model, but also away from Linux development. Funnily enough, operators like Vodafone and Telefonica who have committed to supporting Linux as a prefered platform would not be counting Android in. (thanks Guy!).

– Android uses Dalvik, a ‘proprietary’ (non-Sun-endorsed) Java virtual machine which means that Android developers can use Java SE APIs, while Google does not have to pay any royalties to Sun for TCK certification, as they ‘re not claiming this is a Java environment. As Stefano writes, Google doesn’t claim that Android is a Java platform, although it can run some programs written with the Java language and against some derived version of the Java class library. This is slap in the face of Sun.

– Google is paying developers $10 million to write applications for Android, which is a smart move to motivate developers especially when no phones are out yet. It’s worth noting that $10 million exceeds the yearly marketing budget of most operating system vendors.

The Open Handset Alliance (OHA) is formed by an array of complimentary participants; operators (covering US, Europe, Asia, Japan and Latin America), handset OEMs covering all global regions (including HTC, the second-biggest smartphone OEM after Nokia), as well as hardware and software vendors covering complimentary constituents of a mobile handset.

So is Android mature and will it be adopted by OEMs ?
Google has dedicated an estimated 200+ man years building the platform (since the Android acquisition), but there are still bugs (see this report). HTC has confirmed it is launching one handset in 2H08 and reportedly plans to release a total of 2 or 3 Android-based handsets in 2008. Moreover, according to a WSJ report, T-Mobile US has committed to releasing a phone in 2008 that will be based on Android. For a new Linux initiative, this level of commercial support is extremely rare.

What’s in it for Google ?
Android is a service access platform, not a delivery platform. It’s about growing the pie of mobile advertising inventory and not necessarily growing Google’s share.

There’s nothing to stop Yahoo taking Android and launching a phone with Motorola that bundles Yahoo Go!, flickr and eBay. I ‘m guessing however that Google has some sort of agreement with OHA-participant handset manufacturers and operators about bundling Google services with Android handsets by default.

Moreover, Google might want to bundle the gPay payment system (see this Times Online article). Or connect the physical world to Google advertisers via its ZebraCrossing QR reader technology for mobile phones.

What’s even more interesting is that it may provide a channel for feeding customer analytics back to Google, such as presence, contacts, call logs, SMS messages and a wealth of user profile information that can be used to build extremely detailed digital footprints.

Another important impact of Android is that it will catalyse the development of white-label phones, i.e. phones ready-to-customise by consumer brands like MTV, Nike, Gucci and Tag Heuer. Rapid software customisation is what hampers the scalability of customised design manufacturers like ModeLabs today.

All-in-all, Android seems to be the only non-proprietary operating system with a strong chance of wider commercial adoption. Motorola is losing interest in LiMo (it committed to Qtopia APIs, whereas LiMo supports rival GTK). The LiPS forum doesn’t really have a route to market, apart from Chinese ODMs, and is a partial OS. All other mobile Linux operating systems are either in alpha stage (Celunite, ALP, A la Mobile), not shrink-wrapped (Greensuite), or not backed by a big services firm (Purple Labs). Symbian is dominated by Nokia and DoCoMo; outside Japan, the overwhelming majority (volume-wise and model-wise) of Symbian handsets are Nokia, whereas in Japan the vast majority of 30 million Symbian-based shipments are DoCoMo (60 out of 66 models). And Windows Mobile is for enterprise segments only (at least up to version 6). Plus Android ticks several boxes of OEM checklists including control, time-to-market and cost.

Thoughts ?

– Andreas

Prepaid roaming: an underhyped opportunity

Money!Prepaid roaming is currently one of the hottest developing segments of the mobile market. This choice of words is not even merely describing how agitated this market currently is: several executives have switched companies, as the latter are attempting to get established in a rapidly evolving market while reputable companies are aggressively attempting to increase footprint and secure future revenue streams.

But what is causing all of this turmoil?

Prepaid users are many more than post-paid (especially in developing markets where pre-paid may account of up to 90% of subscriptions) and operators are expected to harness their roaming potential in order to combat declining revenues due to competition, regulation (Eurotariff), increased mobile phone penetration, cheap fixed telephony services, VoIP and several others that are threatening their revenue streams. Informa estimates that approximately 62% of mobile subscribers worldwide are prepaid, counting more than 1.5 billion as of July 2006.

The necessary technologies to implement prepaid roaming are heavily fragmented much more so than post-paid roaming, mainly because a prepaid user requires authorisation to communicate before each call, which is based on his credit, requiring this procedure to take place in near real-time.

There are several ways to enable prepaid roaming:

  1. Call back with USSD: The Unstructured Supplementary Services Data is the simplest method of enabling prepaid roaming. It relies on entering a short code on the handset to query current balance and enable communication. An example of a USSD code is *99#phone number#. It is hardly user-friendly and in most cases complicates use beyond the reach of most users. On the other hand it is practically costless to implement but not considered as a long term solution, only in some developing markets where revenues do not permit an integrated roaming solution or roaming is not seen as a revenue driver.
  2. CAMEL: Customised Applications for Mobile networks Enhanced Logic is a set of standards published by ETSI which describe services that operate above a GSM or UMTS network and are based on Intelligent Network standards. Its use is completely transparent to the end user who uses the mobile phone as in their home network. However, CAMEL requires heavy expenditures to deploy (some vendors quote a cost of 7-8 per subscriber) and also both home and visited networks to be CAMEL-enabled. The evolved mobile markets in Western Europe have implemented CAMEL widely for prepaid roaming.
  3. Proprietary solutions: Several vendors have released roaming solutions that either mimic or translate CAMEL signalling between home and visited networks to enable prepaid roaming.
  4. Prepaid hubs: A solution vendor establishes a roaming ecosystem with multiple agreements with mobile operators, international traffic carriers, signalling providers and other players in the roaming value chain. An operators that seeks to enter the roaming market only has to form an agreement with the hub provider and enjoys several advantages: pricing transparency, wide reach and customer base without the need for complex and extensive bilateral agreements.

It appears that prepaid hubs is the most efficient and cost-effective way to go forward in a fragmented roaming world but market dynamics do not suggest a simple migration. In advanced markets, CAMEL is already established, but operators will still want the flexibility of hubs in markets where CAMEL is unavailable. More so, CAMEL gives the operator the choice of partner networks abroad so that subscribers can be steered to a quasi-controlled environment allowing both operators to benefit.

On the other hand, in developing markets including Asia, Africa and South America, the value of prepaid hubs may be priceless in the eyes of operators whose prepaid subscriber base accounts in most cases for more than 90% of all subscribers. It is these markets that are leading the prepaid hub evolution.

In the rapidly changing world of roaming, it seems that operators are closer to breaking from the ambiguity of roaming charges and provide a transparent service and pricing to end users. Hubs are expected to change the roaming landscape, but to what extent will operators want to shift from their established semi-walled gardens to a more flexible and cost-effective offering for end users? Hubs are expected to play a major part in enabling prepaid roaming but some players in the industry including service providers, vendors and mobile operators fell that hubs are threatening their established roaming business.

One thing is for sure though: With the advent of the Eurotariff and distributed solutions like hubs, the shift towards realistic and competitive charges and pricing transparency for end users is slowly becoming a reality.

– Dimitris

Managing software as lego bricks: the industry side of mobile software management

Lego bricksWhat if handset internals could be managed as lego bricks? What if the software within our phones could be shaped into a colourful construction of small, interconnected components that can be taken apart and reshaped in no time ? The impact would be quite profound, allowing software to be managed across its lifecycle, from development, variant creation and manufacturing to distribution, point-of-sales customisation and post-sales personalisation.

Mobile software management (MSM) is an umbrella of emerging technologies which encompasses firmware over-the-air (FOTA), user interface management and enterprise device management, which have traditionally been considered applications of mobile device management (MDM). However, MSM extends beyond MDM by enabling management of software at the individual component level and doing so at any point in time, not only post-sales, but also pre-sales and pre-manufacturing.

In this second part of the series on mobile software management, I take a look at the industry side of this new umbrella of MSM technologies, digging into the software lifecycle, the industry benefits of software management and the multitude of vendors who are claiming a stake of the pie. For the user benefits of mobile software see part one of this series. This article contains extracts from our recent report titled Mobile Software Management: Advances and Opportunities in Service Delivery.

The handset software lifecycle
The handset lifecycle consists of three main stages: pre-load (i.e. from concept to in-ROM), post-load (from in-ROM to in-shop), and post-sales (from the time of sale to handset retirement).

Mobile software begins life 18-24 months before the handset leaves the factory. Software requirements are captured as use-cases and are translated into specific technology, hardware and system dependencies. The process of requirements gathering, collation, prioritisation, definition and agreement often takes up to six months.

software lifecycle

Thereafter follows the software development process, comprising configuration management, integration, testing and quality assurance. This phase of software development and integration requires typically another six months.

Adding in handset-specific hardware requirements, generation of variants for different channels, operators and regions, acceptance testing, interoperability testing and resolution of last minute bugs results in another six months before the software is finally embedded into the ROM.

Post flashing to the ROM, there are additional development requirements regarding channel customisation, addition of specific applications and settings. The handset lifecycle post-sales is much more familiar; the user can personalise the handset with ringtones, or games. We can also envisage new handset features being delivered over the air (as in the case of the iPhone).

Why the mobile industry cares about MSM
The industry does care for MSM; mobile software management can address a large number of diverse challenges for the various industry players, as we will see next.

Handset manufacturers.
Handset manufacturers use software to develop, deliver and manage handset features and services across the handset lifecycle. There are multiple challenges for manufacturers:

– Software reuse: Software delivery across multiple product lines is inherently complex and costly for manufacturers. MSM and specifically modularisation technologies offer easier software re-use across handsets and componentised software development, integration, testing and delivery.

– Variant management: Handset manufacturers have to address the continually increasing number of channels, operator customers and end user segments, each of which requires creation of a unique handset variant. For example, it is believed that Nokia currently manages around 10,000 software releases every month, i.e. discrete versions of applications (SMS, email, browser, Java) for a certain handset model, for a certain region and channel. MSM technologies enable not only pre-load, but also post-load delivery and management of software modules to address channel, customer and user needs of handset manufacturers.

– Post-sales services: Tier-1 manufacturers have since 2006 been packaging after-sales services onto their handsets (e.g. Nokia Catalogs, Motorola Screen 3 and Sony Ericsson s TrackID) via specialised clients. MSM would allow this client software to be easily manageable and scalable across handset models.

Mobile network operators
MNOs face continual challenges in delivering services, particularly as these services are increasingly dependent on handset software enablers:

– Variant creation: Similarly to OEMs, operators must offer a variety of software features to target different end user segments. Operator solutions must ideally be capable of managing hundreds of different device models, a challenge that MSM technologies cater to with post-sales software update and componentisation capabilities. In general, MSM can decouple the service lifecycle from the handset delivery lifecycle, so that new services can be provisioned directly to the handset at any time in the handset lifecycle. For example, operator-customised applications could be delivered to the handset post-load via software component updates.

– Device base enablement: New operator services (e.g. i-mode, open web strategy or HSDPA network upgrades) are often not supported by the installed device base. MSM technologies can enable the existing device base to support newly launched services, thus generating additional revenues throughout the post-sales device lifecycle.

– Post-load handset specification: Typically operators will provide hardware and software requirements to handset manufacturers as fixed, one-off requirements. This is a process manufacturers struggle with, given that operator specifications often exceed 4,000 requirements and are refreshed every six months. By moving part of the handset tailoring or variant creation process to the post-load phase, operators can achieve faster time to market.

Independent software vendors (ISVs)
ISVs develop software for the device pre- and post-load by working directly with the OS provider, handset manufacturer or operator, or alternatively by providing applications to the device in an after-sales market. Software management challenges for ISVs are evident in pre-load, post-load and post-sales cases:

– Pre-load integration: ISVs report that pre-load integration and acceptance testing of software is both complex and resource intensive. An ISV that we spoke with indicated that the lead time for software acceptance testing is 4-8 weeks for the S60 platform, 8 weeks for Java and 10-12 weeks for Windows Mobile. MSM stands to reduce that time-to-market cost by decoupling software acceptance testing from device delivery, i.e. allowing testing and integration to occur post-load and post-sales.

– Post-load / post-sales variant management: ISVs catering to consumer applications have to deliver thousands of variants of each application that must be created for the equally numerous flavours and types of software platforms, particularly due to Java fragmentation. For example, software development house Glu Mobile generates approximately 5,000 variants (SKUs) for each one of their top-selling games in order to be ported to 700 device models. As another example, Jamdat shipped 57,000 SKUs of their game titles in 2006. MSM technologies stand to deliver a difference here by allowing application variants to be bundled into a single application that checks for the platform version and adapts the application accordingly. For example in the PC environment where software management is more advanced, Electronic Arts, the largest game developer has to produce 70 variants for each game.

Enterprises are actively asking for MSM today under the context of specific enterprise applications such as device policy management, ability to manage/update software and applications on the device and inventory reporting. Mobile phones need to be managed as IT assets similar to the PCs on the enterprise network. The requirement here is very much for an end-to-end solution and key to this is security and reliability with service level agreements becoming the norm. MSM provides the ability to gain control over granularly managing software on employee devices in the field.

End users
Last but not least, mobile software management enables a wide range of scenarios that offer value to end users, such as:
– Buy, pick & mix.
– Accessorise me.
– Dress me up.
– Fix me.
– Check me up
– Supersize me

For a detailed discussion of these user-centric scenarios see part one of this series on mobile software management.

Behind the industry scenes: deployments and vendors
Based on 20+ interviews with software vendors, network operators and handset manufacturers that we conducted for our VisionMobile report on Mobile Software Management, we understand that at least eight trials of mobile software management technologies are underway as of H1 2007.

The supply part of the MSM market is in a nascent stage. Despite the early stage of the market, a large, diverse range of vendors are moving to exploit revenue opportunities in mobile software management.
MSM players

The above table summarises key vendors from each category of actors playing in the MSM market:

– OS vendors, e.g. S60/Symbian, Windows Mobile, EMP, Mentor Graphics (Nucleus)
– Modular operating systems, e.g. BREW and Open-Plug
– System integrators, e.g. Teleca, Sasken, SysOpen Digia
– Software component management vendors, e.g. Red Bend
– Retailers, e.g. Carphone Warehouse
– Distributors, e.e.g Brightpoint, Brighstar, Cellstar
– Software vendors, e.g. Abaxia, Cibenix
– MDM incumbents, e.g. HP, InnoPath, mFormation, Nokia (Intellisync), Sicap, SmartTrust, Smith Micro, Synchronica, WDS Global
– Application environment vendors, e.g. Java, Flash Lite

Winners and Losers
Amidst this emerging market, we argue that winners are operators with an advanced handset software strategy such as Orange and Vodafone and manufacturers who have embarked on a complete software redesign and service-focused modularity like Motorola with their Linux-Java and UIQ platforms.

Vendors we have high expectations from include Open-Plug, which offers tools for software modularity; Red Bend Software, which provides a solution to perform software component updating on mobile devices and is already the preferred firmware update partner for several major OEMs; mFormation who has grown its product portfolio to offer a full set of MDM and MSM services, while continually attracting venture capital and securing global deals with tier-1 operators; and Abaxia who has pioneered use of SIM cards for service delivery post-factory.

The challenge these providers will face is to build relationships and strike deals with major operators and handset OEMs early on, while the market is still figuring out how to solve’s today s issues.

– Andreas

The VisionMobile research report Mobile Software Management: Advances and Opportunities in Service Delivery dissects the complex array MSM technologies, reviews eight major vendors, presents several operator case studies and uncovers key market trends within mobile software management.

The paper is available as a free download from

Google’s Android: boring, exciting or breakthrough ?

Android_duhAnswer: all of the above.

Why Google’s Android is boring:
– The Open Handset Alliance is another alliance designed to bring openness to the world (like OMTP, LiMo, LiPS, GMAE, the MontaVista partner programme, Trolltech’s Greensuite alliance & integration project, and many more).
– OHA is another industry alliance for building better phones, but with zero phones out in the market. If it weren’t for the G company, it would probably be discounted as slideware.
– Android is another Linux stack. We ‘ve already got WindRiver, MontaVista, Purple Labs, ALP, Mizi Research, Trolltech Greensuite, Celunite, Applix, OpenMoko, A la Mobile, .. do we need one more ?
– The Android OS (in connection with Google’s OpenSocial) will help Google compete against Nokia’s Ovi, the umbrella of (mostly unannouned) mobile services. Nothing new here.
– It shows that Google is not going down the RIA route, but the native application route.
– It’s Google’s way of bringing advertising to mobile. Duh.

Why Android is exciting:
– It is the first software stack to use an open source license and one that makes sense. Android will be made available as open source via the Apache v2 license, which is a non-copyleft license. As such, OEMs, operators, distributors, etc can add proprietary functionality to their products based on Android without needing to contribute anything back to the platform.
– Handset producers (new term?) can add/remove functionality easier, without being restricted by component-specific licenses, as is the case with Symbian OS and the Windows CE stack for example. It allows white label phones to be created by design, not afterthought.
– As Nomura points out, it’s Google’s attempt to reach mass-market, mid-range phones where Nokia’s S40 and Sony Ericsson’s EMP control the service game.
– It will allow not only developer innovation, but also user innovation. ”users will be able to fully tailor the phone to their interests. They can swap out the phone’s homescreen, the style of the dialer, or any of the applications.” (source). See what happened to Facebook which was designed to enable both developer innovation and user innovation; it scaled and scaled beyond all expectations.

Why Android is a breakthrough:
– It’s the first time a mobile Linux stack gets a major long-term partner, which is what HTC’s chairman said was needed back in September. No other stack can come close to the multi-billion cash reserves that Google amasses.

– The Android OS will be offered to OEMs for free, which makes Android the first true disruption for mobile phone operating systems as it accelerates the commoditisation of mobile OSes and pushes the value line several thousand lines of code higher.

– It’s the first time that core apps will be equal citizens to downloadable apps. This is a VERY big step forward for two reasons:
a) It’s extremely challenging for any OpenOS developer to design a downloadable app that can replace the dialer, idle screen, inbox, calendar, contacts. There’s very few Open OS apps that can replace the idle screen or contacts, but they need serious know-how and access to manufacturer ABIs (hidden binary interfaces), lots of trial & error and licking OEM boots. Out of 1+ billion phones a year, there’s been no innovation on core apps, other than the Vodafone Simply phones, LG Prada, Samsung D900, Windows Mobile 6 dialer and the iPhone. Android is now making this possible BY DESIGN, not afterthought, contrary to all other open OSes.
b) By replacing core apps with third party apps, it will be possible (and far easier) to design visually consistent UIs, where the usage experience feels like a single personality, from the startup screen through idle screen, dialer, contacts, shut down screen, without breaking the user experience. And hopefully designing a Barbie UI will be exactly the same drag & drop process as designing a BMW UI. This is happening in Japan already.

– It is the first true service platform that allows content to be inserted at any point of the user journey, aka ‘widgets in any application’, aka Magpie (the 2002 Symbian project that was way ahead of its time). This allows core apps (dialer, inbox, contacts, calendar, etc) to come alive, allowing internet services, ads/informercials, content, alerts, etc to be inserted where relevant and in a *context-specific* way. Imagine seeing a weather icon next to a calendar travel entry, or location whereabouts info next to a contact. The Android brings you your entire connected world of services onto your mobile – in the same way that Facebook brings it onto your ‘me-portal’ on the web. Only Android does this by enriching the familiar user journey, not redefining it, acting like a ‘parasite’ or lying on its periphery.

The OS of the future might have arrived early. Fingers crossed.

– Andreas

[update: a few readers have written back to question my optimism for Google’s Android. I could easily have criticised Google’s announcement as many industry observers have done. I chose not to. I believe that the OHA and Android are strategic initiatives from Google, which as more credible than previous Linux forums (LiPS, LiMo and GMAE included) and that there are likely several phones coming out from leading OEMs in 2H08. The New York times seems to confirm this by reporting that “mobile phones based on Google s software are not expected to be available until the second half of next year. They will be manufactured by a variety of handset companies, including HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung and be available in the United States through T-Mobile and Sprint. The phones will also be available through the world s largest mobile operator, China Mobile, with 332 million subscribers in China, and the leading carriers in Japan, NTT DoCoMo and KDDI, as well as T-Mobile in Germany, Telecom Italia in Italy and Telef nica in Spain.”]

What if handset features could shape and evolve with the user? the user side of mobile software management

Today s mobile handsets are highly underutilized; beyond calling and texting, tens of typical handset features go unused. Are handsets over-featured, crammed with capabilities that leave most users indifferent ?

Why can t the user today pick a handset based on style and then choose the features they would like to include, much like choosing the extras for a new car? Why are today s handsets most limited; why can t you transfer a game from a friend s handset? Why can t you get FM radio functionality on a new 400 smartphone?

The answers lie in how the handset software is designed, built and managed through the handset lifetime. Whereas software inside most phones is highly sophisticated, at the same time it is practically shaped into a rigid monolith.

In a sense, the phone software from birth to retirement suffers from chronic arteriosclerosis; for all its PC similarities, the software is mostly immutable and unmanageable, only fit for the narrowly-defined purpose for which it was designed two years before being sold.

At the same time, the user is little interested on how the handset menus can be coloured red, orange, blue or magenta by the mobile operator, but how the phone could be made a bit more friendly and a bit more personalised.

A shallow dive into mobile software management
Mobile software management (MSM) is a new wave of technologies that allow the handset software to be turned from a monolith into soft clay. MSM technologies treat the software as malleable from the design stage and embedding on the device, to configuring at the point of sale, installing features post-sale and prolonging its use until the handset is retired .

From a technical perspective MSM enables the management (deployment, installation, activation, update, de-activation and removal) of software components (applications, handset features and their dependencies) on any device, throughout the software lifecycle (from architectural design, to manufacturing and post sale).

The umbrella of MSM technologies encompasses firmware over-the-air (FOTA), user interface management and enterprise device management, (traditionally applications considered within the scope of mobile device management, MDM) and extends into software variant development, service lifecycle management, feature customization and dependency management. The next diagram shows the taxonomy of technologies under the umbrella of MSM and the relationship with mobile device management.

Mobile software management taxonomy

Figure: Taxonomy of MSM and MDM applications (source: VisionMobile research)

One fundamental difference beyond MDM and MSM is that, while MDM offers control of the higher-level functionality of the device (e.g. skins, ringtones, contacts backup, antivirus and device detection), MSM extends far deeper into the handset, allowing any part of the internal device software to be manipulated.

MSM is a much more powerful and much more complex set of technologies, especially for mass-market (non open OS) handsets; The deeper you go into the handset to manage software components, the more surgery you need to perform. Adding or removing software is like performing organ surgery where each organ is highly interconnected, making interventions a highly complex operation.

Mobile software management is a relatively new and still emerging market, both technically and with regard to commercial deployments. But demand and supply are both ramping up to exploit the benefits that MSM brings to both the user and the mobile industry.

What does all this mean for the user ?
The MSM umbrella of technologies brings several distinct, welcome and newfound benefits to the user:

– Buy, pick & mix.
MSM goes far beyond installing ringtones at the time of handset purchase. At the operator retail shop, the user can personalise the handset features, for example adding FM radio functionality, upgrading the camera resolution or adding a stereo enhancer feature to the built-in mp3 player.

– Accessorise me.
A month after handset purchase, the user can log in to the manufacturer s website and accessorise their phone with an automatic photo panorama function or a real-camera upgrade for instant click-to-shoot experience. The features are automagically downloaded and installed on the handset in a matter of seconds.

– Dress me up.
MSM goes far beyond changing wallpapers. Through a dedicated on-device portal the user can preview and buy complete UI themes; themes that change the way the phone looks and feels, from dialing up a contact to texting and taking pictures. Purchasing a new real-theme morphs the user experience from a pink Barbie look to a sleek, silver BMW look; and themes can change to reflect the user s mood.

– Fix me.
Operator Telefonica use MSM technologies like firmware OTA to offer customer reassurance; the user does not need to be go into a repair shop when there s something wrong with their handset; instead they can call up customer services and have the software fixed over the air in a matter of minutes. In the near future, handset software will be able to be fixed or upgraded in a matter of seconds.

– Check me up
Automatic, proactive fault detection means that the user can rest assured that their contract includes a monthly health status check-up and monitoring. Like a car regular check-up, only that in the case of handsets it happens overnight, and without an inconvenient visit to the car service centre.

– Supersize me
With MSM the user can get the latest and best features and exclusive promotions on the handset before his friends do. Supersizing can be bundled or offered as part of an add-on monthly subscription.

Easing the industry s headaches
Naturally, mobile software management aims primarily to solve many challenges facing handset manufacturers, mobile operators, service providers and software developers; As such, MSM technologies enable a range of scenarios and associated revenue opportunities for industry players:
– Configuration of the handset software as part of 1-to-1 just-in-time customer segmentation at the point of sale, installing, removing and updating features based on the specific customer profile.
– Ability to install and update a new application environment like Java MIDP3 or Flash Lite on the existing handset installed base.
– Ability to personalise the handset user interface twice a month as part of the user s subscription package.
– Upgrade of the handset installed base to support a new 4G network technology and associated data services introduced by the operator.
– Granular monitoring and management of the services supported by handsets in the field by an enterprise.
– Repurposing of handsets for a new channel and customisation for a specific market segment, after the handset has left the factory.
– Component-based software integration and testing as the handset parts move along the value chain, reducing cost and time-to-market for the handset OEM.

Behind the industry scenes: deployments and vendors
Based on 20+ interviews with software vendors, network operators and handset manufacturers that we conducted for our VisionMobile report on Mobile Software Management, we understand that at least eight trials of mobile software management technologies are underway as of H1 2007.

The supply part of the MSM market is in a nascent stage. An evolving puzzle of 10s of vendors principally active in MDM and handset software development are moving to exploit the revenue opportunities in MSM. The next diagram shows how vendors from multiple solution categories are participating in mobile software management.

MDM incumbents HP, InnoPath, mFormation, Nokia, Sicap, SmartTrust, Smith Micro, Synchronica, and WDS Global are introducing applications that are increasingly extending into MSM such as service lifecycle management and user interface management.

Software platform providers Nokia (S60), Symbian, Microsoft (Windows Mobile), EMP, Qualcomm (BREW) and Mentor Graphics (Nucleus) are enhancing their platform modularity, reshaping the software architecture into configurable, updatable building blocks. SIM card manufacturers like Gemalto are showcasing SIM-driven software configuration. Software houses like Abaxia and Cibenix are launching SIM-based software configuration and on-device portals for browsing & buying software, respectively.

Vendors Red Bend and Open Plug are offering solutions for granular feature customization at the software platform level throughout the software lifecycle and across phone tiers.

This amalgam of MSM technology and service vendors will be continuously expanding and evolving over the next three years, to exploit the revenue opportunities ingrained in the many user and industry scenarios opening up.

– Andreas

Research Paper: Mobile Software Management

Coming next: a detailed view of the technologies, players and benefits of mobile software management from the industry perspective.

The VisionMobile research report Mobile Software Management: Advances and Opportunities in Service Delivery dissects the complex array MSM technologies, reviews eight major vendors, presents several operator case studies and uncovers key market trends within mobile software management. The paper is available as a free download from