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Application Ecosystems on Devices

While the software that we develop integrates at system level in devices, we do keep an eye open for developments happening at the application level primarily because the heavy data storage use most modern applications make. Understanding what kind of applications are making headway in the market helps us determine the type of data profile to expect at the file system and flash management level. This helps is in creating new system level functionality that benefits all applications. One example of this is the work done in Reliance Nitro. We observed a lot of device applications and how they use files. We found that apart from some data logging / music playback apps, most apps do not indulge in sequential reads and writes that often. Most of the time, apps are primarily engaged in file operations (file open being the most common). Hence we designed the tree-based metadata architecture in Reliance Nitro to provide radical performance improvements in the file operation speeds.

When we talk about apps on devices, we cannot ignore the 800-pound gorilla – the Apple Appstore. The appstore has created a huge ecosystem for apps on the iPhone and the iPod touch by having a one-stop shop for discovering, reviewing and purchasing apps. Combine this usability with the popularity of the hardware, the app ecosystem has blossomed which has forced rivals to pay attention and start something similar of their own. Google’s Android marketplace is probably the next biggest player while Palm, Microsoft and Nokia are just getting started. While Apple does indeed have a head start of 12-14 months, what is interesting to note is the huge difference between it and its closest rival. This article by Fierce Developer highlights the significant difference in revenue that app developers are seeing on the Apple v/s the Android platform.

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Source: AdMob’s July 2009 Mobile Metrics Report

What do these stats mean for device developers? In order to catch up or surpass Apple, innovation needs to happen on multiple fronts

1. Device hardware: Apple innovated with the capacitive touchscreen and no-keyboard design. OEMs need to find the next game changer on the hardware front

2. Device user experience: Hardware on its own does not win over users. There have been several iPhone competitors who have had better hardware of paper but without matching software capabilities, the devices have not met with spectacular success. Using an optimized data storage stack can help improve device responsiveness which users rank as one of their top requirements. Creating new simple user interface paradigms will also be critical.

3. Developer support: Use of standard tools and languages for writing apps along with a low cost of entry is critical to attract app developers to your platform

4. Discovery and purchase of apps: How do users of your devices find and purchase apps? How can you do it better and faster? What is the average price-point for the buyer profile of your device. All of these are critical questions to answer before creating an app store.

It will need strong execution on all of the above fronts for device manufacturers to catch up to the Apple success. We will be keeping an eye open to developments here; look out for further postings on this topic in the future.

admin | September 8, 2009 | Flash Industry Info

Risks on relying on a single flash vendor

Interesting piece of news today – Digitimes is reporting that Samsung has informed its customers that it will be reducing supply of NAND Flash chips because of the huge order placed by Apple. This story is being picked up by several news outlet including Engadget. While this is good news for Apple and all those vying for the 3G iPhone, it underscores the challenges other OEMs that depended on Samsung Flash will be facing. NAND flash market is very volatile with demand – supply economics changing rapidly. Intricacies of flash memory force most OEMs to rely on a single vendor for supply, that way they do not have to implement support for several flash parts in their design. While this may seem the easier route, situations such as today’s causes production to come to halt or a significant redesign, both which are very expensive alternatives.

One of the ways to reduce such risk is to include support for multiple flash parts and use multi-sourcing to source flash parts from 3-4 flash vendors. If you are using an intelligent flash manager like FlashFX Pro , you are already covered since FlashFX pro supports 200+ flash parts from all top flash vendors. For others, it can still be done with some serious effort during planning and design time. Consider this work as an insurance against an event such as today’s.

Michele Pike | July 2, 2008 | Cost Savings, Flash Industry Info, Flash Memory Manager