6 The (Sony) Ericsson way

In early 2001, Sony and Ericsson announced plans to merge their respective cellular phone businesses. Sony and Ericsson had both struggled in the marketplace, and it was felt that combining Ericsson’s expertise in telecommunications with Sony’s experience in consumer electronics would create a stronger business than either Sony or Ericsson could manage on its own. The joint venture, equally owned by Sony and Ericsson and named Sony Ericsson, began operations on October 1, 2001.

The hardware and software platform used in Ericsson’s phones was chosen as the base on which to build consumer phones. As a result, Ericsson created a subsidiary, Ericsson Mobile Platforms, to license its cellular phone technology to a range of companies, including Sony Ericsson (Kornby 2005). As of February 2009, this business is part of a company named ST-Ericsson.

When Ericsson’s cellular phone business became Ericsson Mobile Platforms and Sony Ericsson, the cellular phone software had to be split into two halves, one focusing on core services and the other on user-facing applications and services higher up in the system. Ericsson kept the parts essential to offering a complete cellular phone platform while Sony Ericsson assimilated the rest.

Separating these two halves necessitated the creation of a formalized barrier between the two, severing the direct ties between user-facing applications and the services offered by the cellular phone platform. To facilitate this, an object model was created as part of the new Ericsson Component Model (ECM). This object model came with support for dynamic dispatch, enabling freestanding interfaces and thus the separation of interface and implementation.

The formalized barrier was built using ECM, and was named the Open Platform API (OPA). To this day, OPA is used to access platform functionality, and is organized in a number of categories, each representing an aspect of the platform. Through OPA, developers interact with the ST-Ericsson platform, enabling activities such as initiating phone calls, sending text messages, playing MP3 audio files and rendering 3D graphics. OPA also serves as the interface to the underlying real-time operating system.