Universal Mobile Interface

Some reflections on the Mobile Glasnost panel discussion at Mobile Life, March 4th

Posted in UMI by Martin Vendel on March 6, 2009


I participated in the in the industry panel at Open House at Mobile Life Centre in Kista. Represented in the panel were, except for myself representing Squace, Ericsson – Martin Körling, Sony Ericsson – Troed Sångberg and TeliaSonera – Johan Wickman. The panel was moderated by professor Lars Erik Holmquist, Mobile Life Centre. The topic as phrased in the programme: “Mobile services have been stuck in a winter, closely guarded by specialized engineers and proprietary business models. Now, the ice is melting – operators, device manufacturers and infrastructure providers are opening up their walled gardens, telling their most valuable secrets and sharing opportunities with the masses. Or are they?”  


There was clearly a joint understanding that an open approach is needed and that walled garden and vertical approaches will slow down the development and limit the success of the mobile Internet. However, we may put different meaning to the word “opened”. Operators and device manufactures have over the years shown a clear reluctance to open up to not decrease their competitiveness. We can hope that this will now change but take their somewhat conflicting strategic agendas into account. This change will not come easy, both due to their need to differentiate but even more importantly due to mindset and culture which is very seldom changed very quickly.


The direct question on if the solution to overcome the complexity and key barriers to innovations and growth is a common operating system illustrates the core of the issue. This is a very technical approach to the problem and the panel have somewhat different view on if this is even necessary and if it will happen, how long this will take. The concept of a horizontal layer over all different operating systems were discuss as a faster and most probable solution as the present players presently have limited incentives to agree on a common operating.  This is what the Universal Mobile Interface is, one generic interface towards the content providers so they don’t need to bother about all different operating systems etc. and at the same time a generic interface for the end user so that they can freely change from one device to the other without being lost.


In conclusion we may now see a “Mobile Glasnost”, but this just one of the first steps and there are still many obstacles ahead. Remember that Glasnost created a very painful transformation phase for Russia. As Russia do, we will have to deal with many future issues, they are probably not be called mafia, oligarchs, Putin and Chechnya, but we need to remember that the Glasnost was probably necessary start and that change of mindset and culture is one of the hardest things to accomplish.