Hello, this is Dan Harmon back to you with my thoughts about something that I think is very important for all products that deal with industry standards, and that is: Product Certification.
The first thing to understand about certification is why do we do it? Who really is intended to benefit from certifying that products are compliant to the USB Specification? The simple answer is the consumer … your mom, grandfather, uncle, niece, etc., who all just want their new computer or peripheral to work flawlessly from the start. That is really who certification is intended to help the most. And, honestly, they probably are the least informed that there is a process in place, or more importantly that there are certified and uncertified products on the market, that could either enhance or diminish their purchase.
For those of us in the business of delivering these products to consumers, there are benefits as well. For the silicon supplier, like us here at TI, the benefit is that our ODM/OEM customers should feel like they are getting a quality product that they can implement into their end products that can be delivered to the consumer with confidence and that it is going to work and work well, and that the support calls and returns will be minimal. For an end product to be certified, it must use certified silicon – so this is a bidirectional relationship. In addition to the benefits mentioned earlier for the end product manufacturer going through the certification process – there include minimal after-sale costs associated with support calls, returns due to "defective" products that just do not work right with each other, etc.
The only way for this value to be delivered from the multitude of silicon suppliers through an even greater number of manufacturers to the even greater pool of consumers, is for trade associations/industry bodies to create a series of standardized tests to ensure that a "device" meets a set of minimum standards. For example, the USB Implementer's Forum (USB-IF) is the industry organization responsible for maintaining certification for all USB products. The USB-IF comprises over 650 member companies from all parts of the globe and has had a comprehensive certification process in place for more than a decade.
Keep in mind that certification cannot be a stagnant process. It must continuously evolve if we are to deliver the consumer experience that is the desired end result. So why would a silicon supplier/end-equipment manufacturer NOT want to go through this process? Okay, so there are some up-front costs and added time associated with testing that could impact your time-to-market, if one is having trouble with passing the testing. However, in my view, all of these are minimal compared to the risk of potential end consumers losing faith in your products. At the end of the day, it’s ultimately the consumer who decides whether these products succeed or fail – so why not protect your investment as well as theirs up front, where it’s most cost-efficient and makes the most sense?
In my next blog I’m going to delve somewhat into the actual certification process, so stay tuned for that.
What are your thoughts on this subject? I’d really like to hear from you.