Monday, February 16, 2009

Big Belly on Thin legs

Mobile Phone devices have already won the battle over the PCs/Laptops in terms of the features which they support. The number of features supported by Mobile Platforms is increasing at a faster pace compared to features on PCs. However, PCs have more hardware flexibility compared to Mobile devices, which are more limited in terms of board space, power requirements and cost.

Mobile SW Platforms are evolving with features to support connectivity, sharing and all possible methods of communication. Hardware for Mobile devices is struggling to catch up with mobile software. There are 3 main reasons for this.

1. Mobile Platform Reference Designs always need to be funded by the Mobile chipset vendors. Unless the reference design for a particular Mobile Platform is mature, Mobile device manufacturers are not interested. Creating a reference design takes a lot of effort and time.

2. Mobile device manufacturers demand lower BOM costs. So chipset vendors prioritize cost-efficiency over supporting new features

3. There is less flexibility on hardware configurability compared to software configuration

The last 2 reasons are dependent on the 1st reason. By finding a solution to the 1st problem the other two can also be solved. So let’s put more focus on the solving problem 1.

Generally create a HW design and then try to make a fresh reference design above that. It would take lot of time to make a reference design for every HW upgrade. A continuous evolution process would solve the problem. Hardware Chipset vendors should continuously create reference designs for the upgraded Software or Hardware. This process would entail:

1. Creating a base reference design

2. Re-using the reference design to add features in hardware or software. Up to 90% of software could be re-used.

3. Continuously adding features and fixing bugs at regular intervals

In this way, chipset vendors would soon evolve robust hardware reference design that is easily upgradeable, configurable and more cost-effective, solving also problems 2 and 3 above. .

In the era of Open source Mobile platforms, software features will grow at a faster pace than ever. Hardware needs to be evolved at the same speed to maintain the same development speed as SW features. This is only possible through a continuous evolution model.

To make sure you don’t put weight on, you need physical activity. It is the same in Mobile Eco System. When software features grow faster than hardware, it puts lot of stress on Mobile hardware vendors. It’s always good to have muscle in the legs and keep maintain & growing it.

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