Opportunities and Threats Confronting Mobile Device Manufacturers and Application Developers

 

EMF has recently published a detailed analysis of the Mobile Device Industry focusing on best practices and ROI analysis. This paper is available for free download from our website.

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  Overview: It’s not easy being a mobile device manufacturer today

 

 Profound economic conditions spawn profound opportunities and challenges. As in any economic contest, there will be winners, losers and those that can’t tell the difference. Market uncertainties challenge vendors and OEMs alike to find new niches, competitive advantages and markets that will remain stable while enjoying growth potential.

 

For example, the FCC has recently adopted a regulation that could dramatically improve our wireless devices. The rule offers a brand new and much-improved slice of the radio space for unlicensed use. The new frequencies are known as “white spaces” and result from making available to the public the frequency spectrum previously used by analog TV transmissions. This spectrum will enable greatly enhanced WiFi capabilities which will provide for mile-long connectivity as well as increased and more reliable data handling capabilities. One can imagine the many new and powerful apps that will emerge – most of which will require reusing developed code.

 

EMF believes that this will both increase opportunities as well as risk for mobile device manufacturers. EMF strongly believes that the issues we present in this report are essential to those manufacturers that will dominate this emerging market opportunity. Merely maintaining a growing position in the current expanding marketplace will not be competitively sufficient.

 

As processor costs continue their downward spiral, and as fickle consumers of mobile technologies are increasingly ready to move to more interesting and useful displays and functionalities, consumer-based markets are becoming characteristically disposable. New platforms appear nearly monthly – like quantum particles appearing and disappearing into the void of consumer insanity – characterized by more functional and entertaining GUIs that enable the technologically disadvantaged to easily link to social sites, read email, text and perform acts of information magic that would have made Merlin give up his wand.

 

Points of Pain: issues that mobile device manufacturers must consider to remain competitive

 

Manufacturers must understand that the value proposition for mobile devices is in the software – not in the hardware

 

Code Reuse

The mobile device market is becoming increasingly disposable. Newer chips offering additional capabilities are coming into the market at a rapid rate. Given the cost of chips falling rapidly, we are facing a ubiquitous seamless market in which product turnover will be measured in months – not in years. In order to remain competitive, manufacturers must be able to retain all or part of developed and tested application software. EMF expects that manufacturers will learn to capitalize application software.

 

In addition, mobile device manufacturers must be able to modify legacy code in order to create new apps and displays. Having to replace existing code for every change of hardware to introduce new applications is extremely costly, time consuming and a downside burden if windows-of-opportunity are missed. These are the true measures of risk – and manufacturers that ignore them do so at their own peril.

 

Product Portfolio Management (PPM)

Given the high cost of software development and the importance of time-to-market, manufacturers are confronted with a litany of available platforms, any one of which might significantly increase sales or, conversely, increase competition and reduce revenues. Currently developers are faced with the choice of Android, RIM, Apple and Symbian platforms. Consider the advantage of being able to export application software that can be modified to work on these platforms, interchangeably.

 

Let’s expand on the concept. PPM can be used to develop a comprehensive set of requirements to address different standards required by different countries. For example, the GPS GUI supported in the USA (e.g., Tom-Tom, Garmin, etc.) shows a car situated in the center of the display while road conditions move from top to bottom. Conversely, in parts of Europe, the car appears to move from bottom to top reappearing at the bottom again with the new road display.

 

These differences can easily be contained in a single set of requirements from which traceability tools can be used to extract the code appropriate to the application. This example represents one of many ways to get to code reuse and is the basis for Product Line Engineering (PLE – which will be discussed in detail in a future paper).

 

Security

Success among mobile devices has bred a new wave of security concerns as hackers are finding value in hacking mobile devices to obtain remote banking access, CRM intelligence, medical data, and otherwise just being a nuisance. With wireless technologies consuming a greater portion of the communications marketplace, the ability of outsiders to obtain data transmitted over wireless connections, conduct phishing ventures and otherwise disrupt commerce is creating a need for mobile device security.

 

Embedded security is not well understood – even by very experienced embedded developers – and is frequently integrated into embedded systems incorrectly. Just as the early networked desktop PC’s and server’s were unprepared to address the new security implications of network connectivity, today’s mobile embedded systems present a significant new security concern, which must be addressed immediately and systematically. 

 

Furthermore, the reuse of desktop code introduces additional security risks for code that is not completely understood nor adequately mapped.

 

Complexity

It doesn’t take much of a leap of intellect to appreciate that a systems modeling approach on a broader scale can contribute to PPM as well as effectively address complexity. Certainly, the evolution of mobile capabilities adds to systems complexity. Furthermore, the ability to effectively manage the design process addresses and enables code reuse, and it also deals with understanding legacy, third-party and evolving interfaces brought on with new design features and requirements.

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