Cell phone handsets and linux and software value

Update at the end.

Two FSMLabs alumni are leading the charge for Linux handsets in two different companies. Jason Whitmire is now GM of cell phones for Wind River. Jason’s blog is here and a Linuxdevices article discusses his first post which concerns the, well, machinations of Google and the two big cell-phone consortia Limo and OHA. I’ve argued earlier that Apple has the advantage of clear mission and business model in this space. They want to create and sell handsets and handset software based on their existing user interface and operating system software. Everyone else in the game has more complicated stories or is constrained to work with bigger players that have more complicated stories. And nobody has any reason to trust anybody else in the game. Apple can just make an alluring product, for which there is undeniable customer demand, and push it through the sales channels – they control the entire process and have something that end users want. If you make a cell phone Linux platform, on the other hand, or some middleware, or something else – you have have to sell operators and/or phone makers on the value proposition. And the standard problem in the embedded market is that there is irrational resistance to paying much for weightless invisible software. The impulse for device makers is to simply treat software as a BOM component and squeeze pricing – no matter what the cost in quality, time to market, or upgrade path. An operating system or a windowing system or an entire platform is not a part like a capacitor that can be graded on one or two indicators and replaced by any other one with a similar grade. These are enormously complex engineering systems that have pervasive effects on performance, battery life, ease of use, scalability and so on. One of the things we like about the enterprise space is that, for the most part, customers make decisions about how much money an end product will make them or save them versus cost, and do not rely on their intuition about how much things should cost. And that’s another advantage for Apple: they know the value of software.

Disclaimer: I don’t even know much about WindRiver’s handset strategy beyond what I read in these articles and certainly do not speak for them on this topic.

Response to question in comments:  Krish Kupathil.  Actually, there are a couple more, but I am not too sure exactly what they are doing. Some of our technical folks who went to WindRiver are probably working on phone architecture – I guess. Alumni of our former offshore group in Pune are also probably working on phones and so are a couple of ex-interns.

Not me – at least on the handest.

2 thoughts on “Cell phone handsets and linux and software value

  1. You say “Two FSMLabs alumni are leading the charge for Linux handsets in two different companies.” Jason W. is the first, but who is the other?

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