In the short span of two decades, the world has witnessed the unprecedented growth and expansion of global markets for mobile devices. Aggressive economic reforms coupled with the digital revolution have also resulted in a rising new middle class of empowered consumers who now have unlimited access to information and each other around the world. Mobile trends and disruptive technology are growing faster than ever before—accelerating competition among enterprises and forcing them to differentiate products and services to target markets.
In May 2014, the International Telecommunications Union predicted mobile-cellular subscriptions would reach almost 7 billion by the end of the year, and 3.6 billion of these to be in the Asia-Pacific region. Flash forward to today—Statista.com confirms the prediction was accurate as the number of mobile subscriptions totaled approximately 6.915 billion worldwide by the close of 2014. With more than a billion mobile phones and tablets around the world running on Android, it’s necessary for the industry to create easy–to-use, state-of-the art mobile devices that can be customized to the market's needs.
Challenges and Impacts of the Existing Process
Original device manufacturers (ODMs) are faced with a few challenges in meeting the needs of nearly 7 billion users. Today, the device development process is dependent largely on ODMs and their ability to work with their preferred hardware partners, as software change is not always an option. This current device development process can have the following effects on innovation: hardware differentiations can be easily replicated by the competition; software differentiation requires high commitment numbers to ODMs; and released devices have weak quality control processes with fragmentation in the Android operating system and software issues in the hardware.
When combined, these effects result in the following four main challenges to the mobile device industry:
- Software fragmentation. Each Android Open Source Project (AOSP)—an initiative created to guide development of the Android mobile platform, which consists of the operating system (OS), middleware and integral mobile applications—can be modified based upon each ODM’s individual needs. This fragmentation means that software systems could potentially be different for everyone, causing inconsistencies from functionality to service.
- Time-to-market issues. Android’s open platform allows developers to build their own apps and provides tools used by ODMs to ensure that developers' apps run on a variety of devices. Upgrading this fragmented system takes longer than usual to get new devices, apps and software updates into the market.
- Quality control processes. Developing quality devices that perform to users’ needs is crucial in this flourishing industry. ODMs and partners are aiming for a moving target while trying to follow procedures in order to ensure that a device or service adheres to quality criteria or user requirements.
- Inconsistent brand identity. Differentiated devices don’t often function under a single operating system, which presents design challenges for each device and platform—straining brand identity by releasing just one update for several different devices.
- Differentiation is difficult to adopt. The trend of regionalization sets out to adapt unique software for different languages, regional differences and technical requirements of each market or country individually—a level of customization that can be tricky to accomplish across devices without engineering changes.
While we know the challenges of operating in this booming landscape of mobile users, how do we successfully overcome them?
Software-Centric Models to the Rescue
The main key to overcoming these challenges is for ODMs to adopt a software-centric model. Simply put, in a software-centric model brands control the software and distribute it to different ODMs according to a specific device roadmap. ODMs, or their partners, can then build this roadmap within a software stack.
In order to manage a successful software-centric model, ODMs must maintain control of the operating system with pre-integrated apps and services, as these will help to organize disparate information into a single interface and streamline how the applications are used, removing some of the burden a fragmented system may cause. All software differentiation, regionalization and customization should be controlled by the ODM or their preferred partner. An ODM’s priority should be ensuring software design and purpose is seamless, consistent and functional in all target markets through a software stack that streamlines apps and services.
A successful software stack is any group of utilities or routine applications that works as a set toward a common goal and follows a software-centric roadmap. ODMs or partners should include apps and services, platform differentiators and cloud services in software stacks that are based on the most recent Google AOSP. This strategy allows ODMs to issue the same release to all its partners and still create different models, while maintaining brand identity across all devices.
ODMs and partners can rely on software stacks running on secure platforms and ready mobile devices and tablets for enterprise use by providing capabilities that include advanced device management; secured enterprise workspace isolated from personal workspace on the same device; and easily managed, flexible workspaces with customized policies and behaviors according to enterprise needs.
Advantages to Using a Software-Centric Model
In addition to giving ODMs and their hardware partners greater control over the device development process, the software-centric model has several advantages that include:
- Allows apps and services to remain consistent across all devices.
- Eliminates dependency on the ODM for differentiation.
- Enables regionalization for different markets.
- Allows shorter time-to-market with a faster Android upgrade process.
- Helps ODMs maintain brand identity across all products.
What About Security?
To accommodate the scalability, availability and performance requirements of new technologies, enterprises must rely on trusted application partners and cost-effective, reliable solutions that accelerate time-to-market, strengthen infrastructure and provide simple setup and multiple-device management solutions—all while ensuring the security of sensitive corporate data and enforcement of enterprise policies.
To make the software-centric model a viable option, it must be managed with a secure, enterprise-grade device management platform—which can be branded and tailored to suit the needs of ODMs, their partners and operators, and customized to specific solution segments. A powerful device management application can perform an extensive list of functions on a mobile device.
Assisting in the implementation of a successful strategy, the right IT partner can quickly identify what an organization needs in order to develop and deliver internal and external solutions that create and increase market value for both the customer and the enterprise. As a result, corporations will have more time to focus on creating differentiating features to separate themselves from the competition.
To be successful in this bourgeoning environment, organizations must have the ability to act quickly on new opportunities and increase consumer satisfaction. Innovative IT partners take industry-vertical, cultural and logistical challenges, inherent while serving emerging markets, into consideration. Success despite fragmented operating systems, regional differences and client-specific needs requires a unique strategy to leverage specialized, customized tools tailored to meet the demands of specific consumer markets in languages and formats that are easily understood.
About the Author: Krish Kupathil is the CEO of Mobiliya, an AgreeYa Mobility company, which delivers cutting edge leadership mobility solutions from cloud to devices. Headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., Mobiliya delivers targeted and differentiated smartphones and tablets, an enterprise-grade Android platform, flexible and customizable device management, an enterprise mobility platform and a collaborative e-learning platform. A veteran of the mobile engineering industry and authority on enterprise mobility, Kupathil has been published and quoted in renowned publications such as Tech Crunch, Slashdot, Training Magazine, Modern Infrastructure, WIRED's Innovation Insights, Small Business Computing and TechTarget.
Edited by Dominick Sorrentino