Mobile phones are becoming more cognitive, signaling a shift from cool hardware design to making the OS the key enabler. As the shift happens, different parts of the supply chain will have to adjust to keep pace.
Regardless of which OEM brand name is on the device, smartphones seem to be acquiring more cognitive capabilities with each new major product release, as noted in this PwC article.
Multiple factors — related to the devices themselves and broader IT developments — are driving this, including improved sensor technology, more powerful processors, better connectivity, increased cloud reliability, and sophisticated data analysis tools.
PwC predicts that as these advances continue, the role of the OS for phones, tablets, and other mobile devices will “only grow in importance as the orchestrator of all the components and services on the device and those that reside in the cloud. The OS is the enabler of the enablers, if you will.”
Ongoing innovation in the mobile OS and user interface, along with the core services layer, will make smartphones capable of self-learning users' behaviors and the device more personalized, Daniel Eckert, PwC director for Mobile Computing, noted in the report.
This puts pressure on OEMs in several ways. First, because there are no comprehensive metrics for measuring OS performance, PwC expects to see incremental improvement mirroring what has happened in DRAM, storage, and other mobile building blocks.
Also, the OS improvements will be more qualitative with things like security, multitasking capabilities, and supported media protocols will getting more focus than rather bits transferred per second or bytes stored per dollar, the firm said.
Although this article doesn't directly address the wider supply chain issues around it, we can all make a leap here. We have seen it before with other disrupted technologies.
When smartphones first came out, hardware design and device form factors influenced consumer purchases. Now, the “cool factor” is migrating towards OSs, apps, and service-level functionality. This crossover in electronics often brings with it new engineering requirements, perhaps some additional component changes (i.e., design with quad-core processors instead of dual core) and improved market segmentation (what works in the US may not work in Japan or China).
Supply chain impact
The point is that eventually it all comes back to supply chain management practices, one way or another.
Luckily, supply chains are getting smarter. The people and organizations running them have tuned in to these design flow patterns, and there is better cross-team planning on how to manage product lifecycles as these shifts happen.
But, have the cognitive capabilities of the supply chain grown as well, keeping pace with the devices they track and monitor? Heck, if a smartphone can become a self-learning tool that senses and reacts to their user's whims, couldn't some of that technology make supply chain platforms even more powerful, creating “bigger masters of the supply chain universe”? Then again, maybe smart enough is good enough for now.