J@pan Inc presents the Wireless Watch Newsletter:
W I R E L E S S W A T C H
Commentary on Japan's Wireless World
Wireless Watch Newsletter
Issue No. 127
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
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@@ Viewpoint: Phone Software Glitches -- What to Do?
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@@ Viewpoint: Phone Software Glitches -- What to Do?
DoCoMo and KDDI are experiencing problems with the quality of the firmware
on their recently released phones. KDDI had to upgrade software in its Sanyo
phones; DoCoMo has announced problems with the F900i and N900i, manufactured
by Fujitsu and NEC, respectively. In 2001, Sony took a heavy blow when it
was forced to replace hundreds of thousands of DoCoMo's SO503i phones.
While updating software for the desktop through the Internet is routine
work nowadays, firmware updates for mobile phones are much more complicated.
Software glitches often force the carrier to recall and replace the phones --
a very expensive procedure. According to Bitfone, a Laguna Niguel,
California-based company providing mobile phone firmware update solutions,
the cost impact reaches $8 billion annually.
Quality assurance by Japanese carriers, who control the value chain and
phone specifications, is still superior compared to that in Europe, where
we often experienced problems with newly released phones. But the complexity
of the latest and most sophisticated Japanese phones, and their rush to
market, leaves less time for thorough testing -- resulting in the greater
potential for firmware problems.
Bitfone claims to have the ultimate solution: over-the-air software updates
for mobile phones.
Bitfone installs a micro-client on the mobile handset that allows for a
byte-to-byte firmware update of the device. Once a firmware problem has
been identified, Bitfone's solution initiates the update via a network
"push" or subscriber "pull" method.
For now, Bitfone's challenge in Japan is to close a package deal with
DoCoMo for their new 506i and 900-series, which will be marketed this
year. The first steps have already been taken: Bitfone has already
announced agreements with SonyEricsson to support the SO505iS and
While the Korean and Japanese mobile markets are relatively easy to
enter for Bitfone (because of total control by the carriers) the GSM
markets will pose a bigger challenge.
Customers can still buy their GSM phones in independent retails shops.
Carriers do not feel responsible for firmware problems on phones not
sold under their control. Bitfone has to strike deals with the major
handset manufacturers to cover the market.
Bitfone's target market will not be limited exclusively to mobile
devices. Once each device in a car, home, or outdoors is connected
to the Internet (the ubiquitous Web society of geek dreams), over-
the-air firmware upgrades could be a breeze, saving piles in maintenance
and servicing money.
-- Arjen van Blokland
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Written by Arjen van Blokland; Edited by Roland Kelts
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