Network Operator Specifications

symbian.gifIn David Wood’s latest Insight 7, he argues that mobile operating systems are not commodities. There’s lots of interesting stuff about how mobile Linux is incomplete, fragmented, closed and playing catch up. (Also see my related links below which have previously covered some of these topics).

There was one small part I didn’t totally agree with…

"In contrast, both Linux and Microsoft have their heritage on devices with much greater amounts of memory."

This is probably slightly misleading and could be taken to imply that Windows Mobile code was derived from Windows Code. In fact, Windows CE 1.0 (Pegasus) was built from the ground up to be small and lean. The only heritage was the people who might have (and did slightly) over-bloat the software.

However, the most interesting part for me was…

"Network operators keep on updating the various specification documents that describe their requirements for the next season of mobile phones. Each season, there is a host of new requirements that must be met, covering (among many other areas) device management, user personalisation, graphics animations, browser performance, dynamic content handling, application signing, and operator customisation.  The Linux phone distributions lag far behind the requested feature set, and remain under intense turmoil to catch up."

It would be interesting to see such specifications. They have, after all, significantly influenced Symbian OS (e.g. Platform Security in 9.1) and Windows Mobile (e.g. Smartphone default grid rather list view at startup and Nokia style buttons for device lock). I wonder how these specifications are derived and by who? Who questions and reviews them?

I worked a long time in software and have learnt that when the customer specifies how to solve a problem, it’s best to ask what the original problem is rather than blindly implement their solution. It often turns out that they mis-understand the reason for the problem or over-complicate their solutions. Let’s hope this hasn’t been the case with network operator specifications.