Challenges to Innovation in the Mobile Market

By Michel Gien  |  Posted 2009-02-18 Print this article Print

Challenges to innovation in the mobile market

Despite valiant efforts over the years, phone makers are still taking 12 to 16 months to build "first-of-a-kind" phones based on new chip sets, peripheral devices and software. The following are four challenges that mobile vendors face when delivering innovation into their products:

Challenge No. 1: Architecture entropy

Today's mobile phone architectures are very complex, requiring simplification and better alignment of technical and business architecture. This complexity manifests itself when adding new services to a precertified platform. This often results in increased cost for integration and testing, as well as unpredictable behavior. Architectural entropy must be reduced to truly reap the benefits of the open-software platform or it can relegate back to being a closed consumer device.

Challenge No. 2: Fragmented product platform

Different market segments require different hardware and software features to be delivered.  As a result, most vendors have adopted a multiplatform approach across their product portfolios. Because of this highly fragmented space, innovative ideas require a steep investment-often demanding multiple platform support in order to gain maximum market penetration. The entire mobile ecosystem is in great need of a simple and consistent way of adding value and innovation without having to port it to each of the unique platforms in the market.

Challenge No. 3: Tight coupling of hardware and software

Contrary to the mature PC market (where resources are abundant), the constrained mobile devices often require tight coupling of hardware and software to repeatedly produce predictable performance. As a result, any major changes in hardware can significantly affect the current behavior of the software. We need to decouple the hardware and software vendors so that they can independently innovate and, hopefully, aggregate these innovations into compelling products while maintaining predictable behavior.

Challenge No. 4: Protecting intellectual property rights and product differentiation

The current strong interest in open source for mobile devices is stimulating a great amount of innovation at the hardware and system software level. Still, chip set and OEM vendors remain sensitive about protecting their intellectual property rights and their key products' unique selling points. Isolation of these business-critical assets from the open-source licensing becomes a key business decision in preserving the value and ROI for their innovation efforts.  

Michel Gien is co-Founder and Executive Vice President of Corporate Strategy at Virtual Logix, Inc. Michel has more than 30 years of experience in the research and software industry. His passion for technology, working with customer issues, and his commitment to excellence are the foundation of VirtualLogix's culture. Prior to co-founding VirtualLogix as its first CEO in August 2002, Michel was co-Founder, General Manager and Chief Technology Officer of Chorus Systems. He became the first Distinguished Engineer outside North America at Sun Microsystems when they acquired Chorus Systems in 1997. Prior to founding Chorus Systems, Michel worked as a Director at INRIA (French public IT research center) and CNET (France Telecom's research labs), leading research projects on computer networks, UNIX and distributed operating systems from 1971 to 1986. Michel also founded, co-chaired, and then chaired the European Unix Association (EUUG, then EurOpen) from 1980 to 1990. Michel graduated from Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures de Paris, France in 1971. He can be reached at

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