Rich connected applications: the evolution of ODPs‾

Matt Lewis/ARCchart
28 May 2008

Back in 2006, ARCchart coined the term On-Device Portal (ODP), identifying a generation of products that deliver content on the mobile phone through the use of a dedicated client application - whether that application was Java, native, or developed in an open OS (such as Symbian or Windows Mobile).

We segmented ODPs into three classes of products - offline portals, on-device storefronts and home-screen replacements. We saw on-device portals as an evolution of the browser-based WAP experience, which suffered from unexciting graphics and aesthetics, and a frustrating user experience owing to the need to connect with a slow 2G network for every step of the WAP journey.

Jump forward two years and today we find ourselves in a more mature market with a host of applications, as well as application frameworks which, in theory, could fall under the ODP moniker. From mobile TV and streaming media applications to Nokia's new Ovi and widget environments: these applications tick all the right ODP boxes but are not traditional "Ëœportal' type products. So, does the industry require a terminology that encompasses these new rich connected applications that are more like ODPs on steroids‾

Compared with the browser, ODPs substantially improve how users discover and interact with content:

* Discoverability - by aggregating content within a single application, users are more easily able to find the content they want.

* Caching - by making background connections to a content server whenever new content is available, the user perceives a latency-free experience.

* Personalisation - by incorporating basic personalisation and customisation features, ODP applications are able to deliver content with a greater degree of relevancy.

ODPs cater directly to the needs of the major industry players involved in the distribution of content and media services to mobile phones - namely the operators, handset manufacturers and media companies. For operators, ODPs drive data ARPU and service usability by delivering content to the device in an easily discoverable, instantly accessible and personalised manner. For example, having distributed the SurfKitchen storefront ODP on all its Signature devices, Orange has witnessed a 40% jump in purchase activity in a like-for-like comparison between devices with and without pre-installed ODP applications.

Most Tier 1 operators worldwide now have an identifiable ODP strategy. Vodafone recently commenced rollout across several of its territories of an ODP solution provided by Ericsson, Cibenix and ikivo.

For content providers, ODPs are able to deliver an immersive user experience beyond the traditional operator deck. ODPs ensure that content is rendered consistently across devices and allows content providers to leverage their advertising inventories, providing more flexible business models beyond the hugely limiting pay-per-view approach.

Examples include the ODP solutions provided by mPortal and UI Evolution to Disney Mobile and EPSN Mobile respectively, until both these MVNOs went kaput. Last month, Sports Illustrated selected Action Engine to deliver its MySI Mobile application, which allows sports enthusiasts to track scores, schedules and standings for their favourite teams and view popular SI photos.

Finally, ODPs cater to handset manufacturers who want to reduce their time-to-market for customised handsets. In the case of Nokia, with its Content Discoverer and Ovi applications, ODPs are acting as the bridge the handset giant as laid down as it attempts to cross the canyon separating the two worlds of manufacturing and internet services.

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