By Martin Wilde
Consider, if you will, a situation wherein you have a new product you want to bring to the market. However, being an ideas guy, you don’t have the resources or know-how to actually build the thing, so you have to find someone else to build it for you. You make the effort to put together an RFP laying out all the details and requirements of how you want the product to look, feel and behave. You solicit several reputable firms who have the demonstrated capacity to build such a thing, and wait for their responses.
“Sure, we can build that for you,” says device manufacturer #1. “Only we can’t meet X, Y and Z requirements, and it will take two years to build. Deal?” What!?!? Two years? That’s an eternity in technology. And you can’t even build what I want? Forget it! On to the next supplier.
“Yeah, those #1 guys are blowing smoke,” says device manufacturer #2. “We can build it for you in 18 months, guaranteed! But is there any way you can relax requirements A, B, J and Q?
We don’t think that stuff’s very important, and our research says people don’t want that anyway.”
Now wait just a cotton-picking minute. Your time to market is shorter, granted, but not that much. That’s still a VERY long time in technology cycles. Besides, I’m the customer! I know what I want, or I wouldn’t have asked you to build it that way. I couldn’t care less what you think. I just want to get this thing into the market before the competition catches up to me.
Same goes for suppliers #3 and so on. They’re either not able to meet the timetable, have competing projects for the right technical expertise, or try to redirect what you want. So no option yields the solution you really were looking for. What do you do now?
This is not unlike the situation that many companies trying to bring new innovative solutions to market find themselves in. For example many operators find themselves in when trying to bring new experiences to the marketplace. The speed of innovation is determined by the suppliers capacity on both the software and hardware levels. But what if the operators could supply their own software platform, that crucial part of the experience they want to deliver, and then work with the various ODM vendors just on hardware implementation alone? Suddenly the control would shift to the software platform supplier which in this example would be the operators. Time to market would, potentially, be greatly reduced, with customized experiences and multiple handsets available to lead the way.
This idea is utopia to some, refreshing to others, and downright scary to those invested in the status quo. However, this scenario appears close to the reality of how the mobile market is shapping up today. But to the larger question, does this benefit the consumer, our ultimate measure of success? Are we simply replacing one bottle neck with another? And will this ultimately lead to higher levels of innovation ?