The mobile device marketplace is fragmented. One reason is that mobile handsets reflect individual personalities, which continually seek change. This fragmentation is highlighted by the number of recent new entrants — from Apple and Chinese OEMs like Huaweii and ZTE, to Google, with Android, and the LIMO foundation, which have introduced phones using Linux-based operating systems (OSs). Add these new entrants to all the other OSs out there and there are 20+ different mobile phone operating systems in use. If we add in mobile-capable notebooks and netbooks, even more OSs and OEMs join the fray.
The mobile industry recognizes this ongoing fragmentation and has developed strategies to help bring more conformity to the market. One strategy is the establishment of standards to help networks interact with a varied portfolio of devices. For example, the 3GPP and 3GPP2 standards bodies have existed since the beginning of the mobile industry to provide specifications that enable handsets to interact at the network level to provide voice services. With trends showing continued fragmentation for the foreseeable future, mobile management standards have become critical to the industry, enabling the various devices and operating systems to interoperate on different networks and network software, with different applications, across different mobile operators, service providers and enterprises.
STANDARDS FOR MOBILE MANAGEMENT
We cannot expect, nor do we really desire, one global standard for every data service, on every network, for every device. Rather, certain core capabilities need to be standardized that enable flexibility along with interoperability. The Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) Device Management (DM) working group focuses on creating specifications that enable any device using any operating system to be managed and secured over on any network. Device manufacturers, mobile operators and device management software companies agree to the specifications on both the network (server) and device (client) side. Implementations of these standards allow devices to be managed, optimized and secured in a common way, irrespective of the device manufacturer, model or operating system(s).
The ability to manage, optimize and secure devices and the data on them is an important requirement in the mobile world, helping to create certainty in this fragmented ecosystem. Handset vendors can deploy a standards-based OMA DM client across a range of different devices and operating systems. Mobile operators can have confidence that these devices will all be manageable when they deploy them.
A clear measure of the success of a standard is the rapid adoption of that standard worldwide. According to research from Ovum, the penetration of standards-based device management technologies in handsets is growing rapidly — even with the overall reduction in handset shipments in recent years, growth in mobile device management (MDM) technologies on handsets has been strong. In advanced markets, approximately 40 percent of devices will support OMA DM technology in 2009, with adoption predicted to reach more than 50 percent in 2011.
MEETING MOBILE STANDARDS CHALLENGES
A great benefit of the OMA DM approach is innovation can occur to extend and move the standard forward. Service providers and device OEMs can extend management capabilities through the standardized OMA DM client. As new services gain traction, new management capabilities can be standardized by the OMA through the use of new management objects (MOs).
Market demand for a capability often results in the need to deploy a service ahead of the standard. To support customers when they are deploying new services ahead of the standards curve, vendor extensions become necessary to support new services and meet new requirements. These extensions can later be rolled into the standards.
For example, as the market and technology mature, stakeholders are moving away from proprietary protocols for over-the-air firmware updates and toward adoption of the OMA DM specification. Distribution and management of mobile applications is another area where initial deployments highlighted demand for capabilities that are now included in the standard. Other device management capabilities are following this path; these are illustrated in new management objects being developed for connectivity (Conn-MO), look-and-feel customization (LFMO), lock and wipe (LAWMO), scheduling and diagnostics (DiagMon).
BRINGING INCREASED CERTAINTY
Looking forward, we see an interconnected world, with a wide variety of network technologies and standards, and an increasingly diverse population of wireless and mobile devices. Device management is a central enabling technology in this increasingly fragmented environment — detecting, activating, configuring, securing, updating and monitoring any relevant endpoint (mobile phone, computer, appliance, car, MP3 player, etc.) connected to any relevant network across any relevant protocol.
Broad adoption of advanced device management standards enables mobile operators and enterprises to manage multiple devices and operating systems while ensuring that key business tasks can be supported consistently across all of them. These capabilities, in turn, help remove barriers to increased mobile data use and significantly improve the customer experience. Consumers benefit from a rich choice of devices. Enterprises have the manageability that both IT departments and employees demand. Application developers can ensure that their software works across different device platforms and operating systems. And service providers can support increased mobile activity while meeting the needs of a host of different stakeholders in the mobile ecosystem.
Solutions that manage increased complexity across multiple standards create more certainty for all — device manufacturers, software vendors, mobile operators, service providers and enterprises.
Rakesh Kushwaha is chief technology officer and founder, Mformation Technologies.
Filed Under: Industry regulations