Software Components OTA

Software Components OTA

Firmware Over-the-Air (FOTA) is used for upgrades to mobile phones and tablet computers. The feature goes by several names including Software Update, Firmware Update or Device Management. Originally, firmware updates to a device required visiting a specific service center, with every mobile brand having their own service center. Another method of receiving updates has been by connecting the device via a cable to a PC. Both of these methods were considered inconvenient by consumers and also relied on consumers actively seeking out updates. Therefore the majority of mobile device manufacturers and operators have now adopted FOTA technology for their handsets. If the mobile device has FOTA capability, firmware updates are issued directly "over the air" from the mobile phone service provider to the device. FOTA also allows manufacturers and operators to "push out" firmware upgrades to ensure that mobile consumers have the latest software improvements, which reduces potential customer support costs and increases consumer satisfaction.

Open Mobile Alliance has released a testing process specification on Firmware Update Management which standardize testing methods for FOTA.

Most major mobile phone manufacturers provide information about over the air software-updates on their websites, typically in their customer support section. Manufacturers will usually list which handset models support over-the-air software updating (via FOTA) or which ones still require use of a cable-PC connection.

Red Bend Software also provides a list of hundreds of mobile phone models that have FOTA software.

ARCchart, a UK-based analyst firm, estimates that globally, at least 230 handset models have been released between 2003 and October 2006 that include FOTA support. By 2008, the firm forecasts that 50% of all handsets shipping will be FOTA-enabled. Of that figure, most mid-range and high-end handsets shipping will be FOTA-capable, in addition to a few low-end devices.

Current phone manufacturers that produce FOTA capable phones include LG, Samsung, HTC, NEC, Nokia, Motorola, Sanyo, Kyocera, Sharp, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba and others.

In its report, ARCchart reports that a number of vendors offer firmware update capable server and client technology. These can be categorized into three tiers:

  • FOTA update technology suppliers: HP, InnoPath, Insignia (acquired by Smith Micro) and Red Bend Software. All of these vendors provide client-server FOTA delivery and update technology.
  • Firmware delivery server vendors: HP, InnoPath and Mformation which offer FOTA delivery (and in some cases firmware lifecycle management) as part of a much broader MDM application suite.
  • MDM server vendors and integrators: Gemalto, HP and WDSGlobal who integrate or repackage firmware management server products from other vendors.

The major competitors in the FOTA client market are:

  • Bitfone (acquired by HP in 2007 and is now HP Mobility Solutions)
  • InnoPath
  • Mformation Technologies
  • Red Bend Software

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