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Android - changing the rules for mobile devices

Written by  Shrikant Latkar
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Shrikant LatkarIssue:Europe I 2010
Article no.:10
Topic:Android - changing the rules for mobile devices
Author:Shrikant Latkar
Title:AVP, Products and Solutions Marketing
Organisation:Aricent
PDF size:219KB

About author

Shrikant Latkar, AVP for Products and Solutions Marketing at Aricent. Previously, Mr Latkar worked for Juniper Networks, defining and implementing the company’s solutions marketing strategies. Before Juniper Networks, Mr Latkar spent nine years at Avaya and Lucent Technologies in various leadership positions in the areas of Product Management, Marketing and Engineering. Shrikant Latkar has a B.S. in Engineering from Karnataka University, India, and also an MBA from the Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University, USA.

 

Article abstract

Android, is an ‘open’ mobile software platform that can be adapted to work on almost any hardware or application. The smartphone to beat among today’s platforms, if one wants to gain market, is Apple’s iPhone. Android can succeed, not by trying to match Apple, but by creating a new and superior user experience and by overcoming the difficulties and integrating such ‘must have’ applications as social networking, location based services and video-on-demand into a single integrated Android system.

 

Full Article

On paper, Android sounds like a developer’s dream - a complete end-to-end software platform that is open and can be adapted to work on any number of hardware configurations. This should give way to an open playground for application creators to flourish and nurture their apps and for manufacturers to create endless amounts of handsets and devices. However, Android is still in its infancy compared to other platforms, so can it stand up to other software platforms? The current dominance of the iPhone is not one that can be matched in the near future. Apple has implemented an incredibly suitable environment for consumers who are fundamentally interested in application availability. The only way that Android can enter this space and experience success is not to try and match Apple, but create a new and superior user experience. Therefore applications and the interface are incredibly important and closely linked to the development of an innovative operating system. The Apple app store has set the benchmark in the app market and is likely to continue to do so for the foreseeable future. In early November, Apple announced that it now offers over 100 thousand apps and has reached well over two billion downloads - making clear the level of competition Android is facing. However, the Android app store, which has sprung into life after a slow start, is growing at breakneck speed with a 94 per cent increase in apps during September and October 2009, spurred in part by the release of Motorola’s Android handset. With Gartner’s prediction of 75 million phones running on Android by 2012, the potential market for developers working on Android apps is set to grow dramatically, reinforced by Android handset launches from Sony Ericsson, Motorola and HTC. According to IMS Research, the Android platform will make its way to 18 to 20 handsets from eight or nine handset makers within the year. The most important aspect of creating this platform is the experience consumers will get when using new applications. Yes, an application could easily fill a niche, but if the interface does not support it correctly and create ease of use then it is a waste. For all these new device launches, it is in software development that the handset manufacturers will be able to find their edge against the competition. As manufacturers turn to the Android platform to develop devices that extend way beyond the ‘phone’, they have to explore the full potential of the operating system (OS) and push the boundaries of software development. Understanding what is possible with Android, is the first step. The most appealing attribute of the Android OS is that it is based on open software: there are no restrictions on the types of smartphones or the way that the OS is used. Any company that wishes to make a smartphone can do so on the Android OS (without a license) and is able to tailor the device to whichever target audience it has in mind. However, there is an incredible amount to consider when beginning on the path to an Android device. Along with the explosion of smartphones has come the mass uptake of mobile social networking, which combined with trends such as location based services and video on demand, creates a massive potential for device manufacturers to widen their profit margins. However, in addressing this potential they are faced with the challenge of integrating multiple solutions, often purchased from an ecosystem of vendors, into a single integrated system on an Android platform. This requires the device manufacturers to quickly develop deep technical skills to effectively deal with the constantly evolving Android platform. They also need to ensure that this platform is tested across a wide variety of networks and applications to ensure acceptable service levels and customer satisfaction. In the case of service providers, it becomes critical to ensure rapid application prototyping, along with customisation of the user interface and support for multiple languages – all seamlessly integrated and extensively tested. Service providers need to leverage the advancements in Android and introduce a range of new devices that can effectively combat the dominance of the iPhone; and all this, done in the drive to deliver their unique branding and differentiated value on these new devices. Chipset vendors, on the other hand, seek low-cost reference designs and pre-optimised Android software that can leverage their existing hardware platforms to the fullest, and enable delivery of complete device kits to device manufacturers. In order for these manufacturers to capitalise fully on the latest trends and to make a device which is applicable to the widest audience possible, one of the important areas to cover before any development is undertaken is an audit. There must be a broad evaluation of: • Consumer demands/needs (possibly the most important and pivotal research area); • What other device manufacturers are offering; • Whether they intend to be a direct competitor or strive to provide an Android device to a niche yet profitable market; and • What they are able to do in-house and what will need to be outsourced (i.e. design expertise OS integration) Once each of these stages of the audit have been carried out and fully evaluated by all technology areas involved, the manufacturers must develop a strategy for the release new features and devices whilst keeping an analytical eye over what else is happening and is likely to happen in the market. This planning will be closely followed by product assurance to improve product quality through test automation using testing frameworks. If each of these areas are covered then manufacturers should be able to accelerate the time to market of a range of new Android based devices such as phones, netbooks and media phones, whilst still exploring the market potential for Android based innovative devices with minimal investment. They can also dramatically reduce risk and improve quality of the overall devices by leveraging ‘best in class’ components and expertise and most importantly offer enhanced, differentiated and seamless multimedia applications for end-users, with user-friendly and customised UI across multiple device form factors. The final area to consider, which is often sidelined only to create a mass of problems later for the final user experience, is system integration. Manufacturers must integrate all of their systems to ensure that the subscriber experiences a fully embracing environment where they feel their handset is truly personalised. In order to capitalise on the fast-paced growth in the smartphone market, manufacturers must ensure that they create a complete ecosystem for consumers, one that will not directly mimic the iPhone, but will provide the consumer with something additional they were seeking. As highlighted earlier, this is the most important part for the consumer who, above all, will ultimately decide the handset’s success. If Android is met with mass praise, it might well meet the high expectations created by the iPhone. With the latest market statistics suggesting that Android handsets already account for up to 11 per cent of the smartphones market, they still have some way to go before over-turning the iPhone’s 50 per cent share. However the rapid pace of innovation and development on the platform is evidence that a good battle is definitely being waged. In fact, analyst house Gartner expects Android to become the second most popular operating system for smartphones by end 2010, demonstrating how important a move this is for handset manufacturers. Manufacturers must take a fresh look at the market, identify the gaps and decide how they can address this for the consumer. By using the full power of the open Android platform to unleash this innovation, they have a real chance of designing and developing a device that really does change the rules of the game.

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