Announcing the Mobile Industry Atlas

(see visionmobile.com/maps for the latest Edition of the Mobile Industry Atlas)

After many months in the making, we ‘re announcing the Mobile Industry Atlas. The Atlas is a visual map of who’s who in the mobile handset industry, available in glossy A2 wallchart and PDF format. This is a comprehensive map showcasing 400+ leading companies across 30 market sectors, spanning all major players involved from handset design through retailing including development and delivery of hardware, software, SIM cards, services and content.

Atlas - sample

The Mobile Industry Atlas maps the players involved in the core value chain from handset design to retailing, framed by those who participate in the pre-load and post-load phases of the handset lifecycle:

Pre-load actors: the vendors involved in providing software, hardware and services to the core value chain during the design and development of the handset, and before the software is embedded into the handset.

Market sectors: Input Technology, Plastics & Mechanics, Multimedia Chipsets, Baseband and Appl. Processors, Multimedia & Graphics s/w, Browsers, App Exec Environments, On-Device Portal Solutions, Active Idle Screen Solutions, UI Frameworks.

Core value chain: the vendors who form the backbone of the handset design, development and retailing lifecycle, from industrial design houses to distributors and retailers.

Market sectors: Industrial and UI Design, Silicon and Hardware, Reference SW and HW Designs, Operating Systems, Middleware & Core Applications, System Integrators, Handset ODMs and EMSs, Handset OEMs, Mobile Operators, Distributors & Retailers.

Post-load actors: the vendors involved in providing content, services and delivering services after the handset has left the factory, and post-sales.

Market sectors: Mobile Content, Games Publishers, Service Delivery Platforms, Mobile Device Management, Content Retail & Billing, Mobile Advertising, Mobile Search, Content Targeting, Software Services, SIM card OEMs & Applications Vendors.

The Atlas is available to order in PDF and A2 wallchart format. Well done to all of the team for getting this out of the door!

– Andreas

Carnival of the Mobilists #133

Welcome to the 133rd edition of the Carnival of the Mobilists! This week’s Carnival is hosted by VisionMobile.

Ferris wheel

This week there are quite a few thought pieces and observations worth reading. The iPhone 3G has kept most bloggers busy, but it’s refreshing to see the diversity of topics covered, from challenges in modelling mobile broadband subscriptions to axioms of user interface design. This is trully mobile biodiversity!

Starting with the iPhone posts, Justin Oberman at the MOpocket blog recounts his experiences on the appaling battery life of the iPhone 3G… so appaling that to save battery life Apple suggests you can turn off 3G, location services, push email and 3rd party applications. That’s when technology innovation fails – you buy a new iPhone 3G, not to use any of the new features.

C. Enrique Ortiz at his Mobility Weblog reflects on last week’s news that the iTunes Apps Store saw 10m downloads in just 3 days and makes a very sharp observation;  people WILL download applications, if the problem of discovery is solved.. local applications are not RIP, as many have argued.. ease of discovery must always be part of the mobile solution: be it a search box, an icon on the home page of the handset, a mobile widget, or side-loading. Is everyone listening ?

Ian Wood makes another good observation at his Digital Evangelist blog: the iPhone still has a long way to go; for one, it is only available in two colours and two storage sizes, whereas with iPods there is a choice also in terms of form factors with the Shuffle, Nano, Classic and iTouch.

Moving to mobile strategy posts, Ajit Jaokar at his OpenGardens blog makes a good point: every player in the value chain will have to make the choice between being a Pipe (e.g. IP networks), a Software (e.g. WebKit, LiMo) or a Platform (Nokia and Google). It’s a choice certainly most operators are reluctant to make.

Continuing with another thought piece Andrew Grill writes at his London Calling blog: we’re all an impedance to the brands and advertisers getting their message to the consumer. I couldn’t agree more; the mobile industry overemphasizes technology and mobile operators (the main route to market) are especially profficient at stiffling innovation and blocking long-tail opportunities.

Dean Bubley at his Disruptive Analysis blog ponders on the intricacies of mobile broadband subscribers and whether there is really an accurate model for quantifying mobile broadband adoption & device usage.

Barbara Ballard, one of the few voices on mobile user experience writes about design principles at the Little Springs Design blog. Barbara illustrates some cardinal points on user interface design, namely simplicity, progressive disclosure of information, and how invisible interactions are not always a good thing. Which makes me wonder – why is it that so few mobile software companies employ UI design specialists ? This needs to change.

Finally, Martin Sauter at the WirelessMoves blog writes about how wireless internet is now becoming available for the masses. And while there is software (e.g. Opera Mini) and hardware (e.g. EUR100 phones off contract) available, what’s missing is the proliferation of fair use, prepaid data plans, training of sales people, device auto- or pre-configuration and advertising of compeling services. Well said.

The post of the week honours go to C. Enrique Ortiz for his thesis on why discoverability is what’s stalling the take-up of mobile apps. It’s always great to see such thought leadership in the mobile industry.

Next week tune in to MOpocket for the 134th installment of the best of the mobile blogging- and please keep those thought pieces coming!

– Andreas

The 7 centres of gravity in mobile

[The first half of 2008 took the mobile industry by storm.. Nokia+Trolltech+Symbian, Android, BREW+Flash, Adobe Open Screen, LiMo devices.. As the dust settles, Research Director Andreas Constantinou looks at how the mobile landscape is shaping around 7 centres of gravity].

VortexThe first 6+ months of 2008 were the most turbulent in the entire history of the mobile industry. In November 2007 Google unveiled Android, in January 2008 Nokia announced the acquisition of Trolltech, in February 2008 LiMo announced the first compliant devices, in May 2008 Adobe announced the Open Screen Project, in May 2008 Qualcomm announced that BREW would be embedding Flash, in June 2008 Nokia announced the Symbian acquisition and in July 2008 Apple unveiled iPhone 3G and the AppStore.

As the dust is clearing after the storm, a new landscape is unveiling in the mobile industry; one where the balance of power is concentrating around 7 centres of gravity: Adobe, Apple, Google, LiMo, Microsoft, Nokia and Qualcomm. In other words, the industry is transitioning from a horizontal structure of operating system offerings circa 2002 to a vertical structure of complete offerings circa 2008 (as all industries do, based on the double-helix management theory).

The seven heavyweights share a common vision: to become the dominant way of building phone software and thus control how services are delivered onto mobile devices in the future. Their gravity pull means that they also influence a large part of the value chain making software vendors, handset OEMs and network operators dependent on them. There are two more common elements in these 7 forces: the move to use open source licensing so as to share software development costs and the formation of industry consortia to accelerate commercialisation efforts and reduce time-to-market.

The next diagram analyses the fundamentals, components and commercials of the 7 centres of gravity, and comes from our forthcoming research report on Android vs S60 (click to enlarge).

Seven centres of gravity

Google’s Android is in essence an application environment for opening 3rd party Java developers to access 100% of the operating system capabilities (see earlier analysis on the significance of Android). It is backed by the Open Handset Alliance, a closed consortium of  technology and commercialisation partners. The UI customisation capabilities are also notable, offering system-wide customisation and extensibility of built-in controls. The open source license (as of version 1.0) and the zero royalty fees have been largely responsible for the cascade of announcements in 1H08. However, the real test of Android’s openness will be the security policy implementation that will be chosen by the handset OEMs as they balance developer openness with their liability exposure (imagine the irony.. open Android, closed handsets).

LiMo is a consortium led by mighty operators Vodafone and Orange who are seeking to commoditise the OS and facilitate deployment of their own services via rich clients and container programmes. However, LiMo has yet to prove its credibility; the 18 devices announced to be LiMo compliant should in effect have little in common. LiMo’s practical impact is in having lead integrators WindRiver, Azingo and Purple Labs provide a common-ish Linux-based stack to lead operator requirements and accelerate mobile Linux shipments.

Nokia‘s Symbian acquisition (see earlier analysis) marks the resurgence of the S60 licensing strategy, providing a means for Nokia to more easily deploy its Ovi umbrella of services to non-Nokia devices (and non-S60 devices thanks to Trolltech’s Qt). Nokia’s plan to use the open source EPL license for Symbian+S60 cements the impending commoditisation of the operating system.

BREW has been a complete vertical ecosystem since its foundation, thanks to Qualcomm’s foresight. The BREW application environment  ships on about 1 in 10 of today’s mobile devices, making that more ubiquitous than S60 (see our 100m club analysis of shipments). However BREW is facing persistent challenges in expanding beyond its US and Japan strongholds and has been in the last year competing with Windows Mobile on its home turf (given that QCT chipsets also ship with Windows Mobile). Clearly BREW needs to continue out-innovating the other centres of gravity if it wants to stay ahead of the game – and the recent announcement of embedding Flash onto BREW should prove a step in this direction.

Apple is an industry wonder, and the only player to succesfully, single-handedly  create a vertically integrated offering spanning from hardware to industrial design and services. The AppStore is the developer-go-to-market program that is the latest addition to its vertical offering.

Microsoft has been achieving a near-doubling of Windows Mobile shipments between 2007 and 2008. More importantly, it has loosened its restrictions on the UI customisation, enabling OEMs like HTC, Philips, nVidia and Sony Ericsson to replace the quintessential Start button with trully innovative UIs that matter to consumers. Microsoft’s Danger acquisition should also help the Redmond giant to spearhead its consumer push with innovative industrial designs from the designers of the innovative SideKick.

Last but not least, Adobe has been extremely succesful at penetrating the mobile industry, and will soon be claiming the position of the de facto application environment as Java has failed to achieve consistency of implementations. Adobe’s thinness of its offering (compared to the other centres of gravity – see chart) is balanced by the comprehensiveness and penetration of its developer tools.

As to the second half of 2008, I expect Microsoft to follow with a more open policy towards code sharing and contribution (in the footsteps of Symbian Foundation).  And lots more announcements that the crystal ball is too hazy to reveal at this moment..

– Andreas

Purple Labs + Openwave: the open source battleground intensifies

[Purple who? Research Director Andreas Constantinou analyses the recent acquisition of Openwave’s client business by Purple Labs and how a relatively unknown French software vendor is becoming a key player in the new world of open source software  for mobile phones.]

PenguinsThe Linux-based mobile phone software business is getting serious. On June 27, Purple Labs, one of the key vendors offering commercial Linux operating systems acquired the client business of Openwave, bringing together a Linux-based software stack with a browser and messaging suite. The acquisition brings Purple Labs in head-to-head competition with the Access Linux Platform (ALP) and Azingo, a US-based vendor of Linux-based operating systems for smartphones. It also makes mobile open source one of the main battlegrounds of the mobile industry today, following close on the heals of the Symbian Foundation announcement (see full analysis here).

Based in France, Purple Labs has transitioned from a little known design house arm of Vitelcom (a Spanish ODM) to a well-funded 100-strong OS vendor boasting the only commercial single-core 3G Linux software stack and three Linux mid-tier phones shipped in Europe since 2006.

The transformation has been led since late 2007 by Sofinnova Partners, Earlybird Venture Capital, and Partners Group who have invested $15 million in addition to supporting the $30 million acquisition of the Openwave client business. This puts Purple Labs on a level playing field with Access Linux Platform (backed by ACCESS, a billion-dollar valuation company) and Azingo (funded with $30 million to date) and should help Purple Labs build its professional services team which is a critical element of a Linux-based OS business.

It’s also worth noting that Purple Labs is so far the only vendor with a commercial 3G stack, and one which has been integrated on a single core handset, both of which are major engineering achievements. It is also the only vendor of licensable software stacks (alongside Mizi who had shipped its OS on 3 Samsung phones) and the only Linux-based software stack which has shipped on European phones which come with demanding requirements for GCF certification and operator (incl. i-mode) customisation.

Too good to be true ? The next six months will tell, as ALP, Azingo and Purple Labs are preparing to launch their next handset projects and OEMs are being called to choose between S60/Symbian, Android and Linux stacks.

Purple Labs is led by Simon Wilkinson and the ex-Magic4 management team who led Openwave’s client business. The same team has now effectively led the acquisition of Openwave’s browser and client messaging products including all code, patents, customer contracts and the engineering team.

Bringing Openwave back from the ashes
Opewave has suffered a major decline in the last year. In May 2007 it was announced the business was up for sale, it’s looking for a new CEO and its share price (OPWV) has dropped to less than a fourth of what it was one year ago. This is the same company who had shipped software on more 1.4 billion handsets with 50 device manufacturers (as it still mentions on the ‘about’ page).

In its heydays in 2005 Openwave was celebrating 1 billion handsets shipped with its browser and launching MIDAS, a then-visionary service delivery framework, the same strategy that underlines today’s widget adoption by OEMs and operators. The Openwave browser business has been perhaps one of the first victims of the open source phenomenon (alongside Obigo); it was open source development practices which allowed the likes of Apple, Nokia and Google to build next-generation browsers by pooling development costs through the WebKit project – see our seminal article Bye Bye Browser for a full analysis of the story. Since MWC 2008, Openwave has refocused its business on network service management products – including content optimisation, mobile advertising and personalisation.

The $30 million that Purple Labs paid for the acquisition is peanuts compared to the valuation of Openwave’s client business circa 2005, considering that browsers typically command $1 per-unit royalties (volume dependent) and Openwave had around 50% market share of browser shipments. [update: For 1Q08, Openwave had reported $11.1 million in revenues from its client business, including software license fees and related engineering services].

Purple Labs also inherits the WAP browser business where WebKit competition is not yet relevant, as well as the MIDAS scripting framework, which can be assumedly be repurposed into an on-device service delivery platform. If this doesn’t sound familiar, on-device platforms for service delivery are what Qt, Silverlight, Java FX Mobile, Qualcomm’s Widgets, Flash Lite and Tamarin are all about. I would assume Purple Labs plans to reuse Openwave technologies to help address the requirements of LiMo Foundation members such as Vodafone and Orange.

The open source battleground is consolidating and intensifying. Watch this space!

– Andreas

[want to know more about open source use and best practices in the mobile industry? Check out our 360 degree workshop on mobile open source.]