The Next Generation On Device Portal – Do it or Drop the Service Provider title

The missed opportunity of the ODP (On Device Portal) has been discussed on this weblog several times.  The fact it took Apple to show the industry how to get it right is an embarrassment.  Apple’s iPhone has redefined the relationships in the mobile ecosystem.  Essentially they have become the service provider and the operator a network provider, and in the limit an ISP (Internet Service Provider).  The ODP was never just a device client, it was also a back-end. It was the integration of those two technologies which created an improved customer experience, and with the NGODP (Next Generation On Device Portal) the integration of those technologies with a well thought through business strategy, model and process that creates a lock-in experience and a defensible business.

NGODP is at a midpoint between open platforms of the PC and the closed platforms of most consumer electronics, e.g. TVs and DVRs.  Critical is third party access is made possible yet managed.  Devices are delivered with a rich set of content and applications which renders the distinction based on ‘openness’ irrelevant from the customer’s perspective.

The NGODP covers creation, discovery, acquisition, delivery and consumption of content and applications; and critically a means to update the applications and devices – reminding the customer of the value they’re receiving almost every day.  The end user experience is critical to success as they receive an optimized, easily customized and frequently updated user experience, so customers are aware of an on going service provider relationship with value being delivered yet requiring minimum customer action.

Google, Microsoft, RIM and Apple are aiming to dominate customer experience by combining their control of the NGODP in combination with a suite of compelling applications and services.  We’re already seeing mobile device fragmentation reduce as content owners and developers migrate to these centers of gravity, witness Android’s current success (the pendulum will swing, I’ll talk about that in another article).  The NGODP is focused on on mid to high-end devices in developed markets, however we’re seeing operators like Bharti Airtel adopt such an approach across a broader set of mobile devices.

Normally an OEM’s (Original Equipment Manufacturer) responsibility for a device and software ends once the device is shipped.  However, Apple maintains an on-going relationship with iTunes for content and system upgrades and App Store for applications, all remotely managed.  Apple retains complete ownership of the end-user experience, its development and is the focal point of interactions.  Its a third way between the PC (open) and your TV (closed.)  Apple’s approach is open enough to bring in third parties, but with complete control over the customer experience.  This will be emulated by Microsoft, RIM, Google, Nokia, Samsung, etc.

The components of the NGODP include:

  • Device side application platforms for own-brand and third party applications ranging from a widget engine (Vodafone’s approach) to a full blown OS (Apple)
  • Third party ingestion mechanism that includes SDK (Software Development toolKit), IDE (Integrated Development Environment), and testing for proprietary platforms, e.g. Apple iOS4, and certification, distribution, and settlement for everyone else.
  • Shop front / service hub were third parties can promote, distribute and monetize.  Users can discover, purchase, download, rate and share.
  • Available across multiple devices, e.g. PC, tablet, phone and TV
  • Tight integration between device and network-side of the shop front with synchronization and device management
  • Control, control, control….
  • Slick, integrated end-user experience
  • Restricted access to the device.  In Apple’s case apps do not get one without Apple’s approval; in Vodafone’s case they do not run in the widget engine unless they’ve (WAC) have signed them.

The back-end can be thought of as a “services hub” through which third party developers, content providers and the operators own product managers are able to promote, distribute, monetize their wares which customers can discover, purchase and download.  Other services provided include synchronization, device management, server side app store functions (cloud-based operation) to enhance the client-side app store experience.  PC access, so customers can browser from their PCs and download to the mobile, TV or tablet.

The front-end is a tightly integrated client to the services hub for update, refresh, restore (if device is lost or crashes), network based store for devices with limited capacity, management of device capabilities (only apps that can run on device are presented).

From a technology perspective it is an integration of the ODP (On Device Portal), CMS (Content Management System), SDP (Service Delivery Platform), App Store and developer / content community.  From a business perspective it is an integration the the above technology with a clear business strategy, model and process.

The answer is out there, its called the Next Generation On Device Portal, its just a matter of copying before its too late and most customers are locked into the Over The Top providers experience as we’re seeing significant stickiness.

One thought on “The Next Generation On Device Portal – Do it or Drop the Service Provider title

  1. franciscokattan.com

    Good article Alan. I recall our efforts with Flash Cast at Adobe. The concept was not too different from today’s App Store Catalog + apps. The big difference was that at the time we bet on the operators to go to market. Operators were at the center of the ecosystem in many markets and could influence the OEMs to load our client. It’s amazing to see how quickly the ecosystem changed led by a new entrant (Apple).

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