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The Smartphone Show: Building Developer Support Print E-mail
Written by Richard Bloor   
Tuesday, 18 October 2005
We have already mentioned some of the news from the Smartphone Show that specifically affects developers. In this final show report we take a global look at these announcements and ask if cost should really be the key issue.

If there is one thing that Symbian needs it is developers. While Java developers have a wealth of tools to choose from, C++ developers have been much more restricted. The three choices, Borland, CodeWarrior and Microsoft Visual C++ are either expensive or not exactly easy to use. Now that Borland seem to have dropped out, there was no sign of them at the Smartphone Show, things would be looking pretty desperate if it where not for the announcements made at the show.

The good news started with C++ IDEs and the announcement of Nokia's Carbide.c++ for Symbian OS. Significant in this announcement was the introduction of a free version and a dramatic reduction in the "full" third party developer tool price. Based on Eclipse, Carbide.c++ Express is the free offering and will contain all the core utilities needed to create, debug and package a Symbian OS C++ application. The next step up is Carbide.c++ Professional. At 300 Euro this should represent excellent value for money including, as it does, a visual development environment. For little more the price of a low end, SIM free, Series 60 phone, it includes a visual tool that will ease entry into Symbian OS C++ development; by reducing the learning curve for both GUI and non-GUI development. In support of this announcement Symbian has also joined the Eclipse Foundation to contribute to the C/C++ Development Tools project ("CDT").

Once an application has been created, debugged and tested on an SDK emulator the next step is to test and debug on a real device. Here free developer certificates come into play. These certificates allow applications to be signed during the development process so that when installed on a phone, which has been tied to the certificate, the secure APIs are opened to the application. This means that developers can perform on-device debugging and various forms of testing without having an application Symbian Signed first. This testing need not be limited to in-house testers. An application installation file (the *.sis) can be signed with this certificate, so applications can easily be distributed to Beta testers, who (with basic technical knowledge) will be able to sign these applications themselves.

With the application debugged and tested, the next step (if is required) is to submit the application to be Symbian Signed. The cost of this process will rise steeply, in both signing costs and opportunity costs from delays, if the application needs to be submitted multiple times. This is where the third announcement is targeted. In association with OpenSys Digia, Symbian is making an automated testing suite available that can be used to validate an application against the Symbian Signed criteria. This will allow a developer to submit applications confident that it will be returned signed.

Finally, applications that are distributed free of cost can be signed for free under the Freeware Certification program. Jointly funded by Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Symbian this program will allow both open source and private freeware developers to overcome the barrier created by the cost of Symbian Signed.

Symbian Signed (and by inference Platform Security) loom large in many of these announcement. So are these announcements about encouraging new developers to create applications for Symbian OS or simply to placate existing developers concerned about the cost of Symbian Signed? While there is an element of both in the announcements, the former motivation outweighs the latter. Clearly Symbian Signed has a cost, but equally it has a benefit to developers (even before it becomes a necessity for some applications, just witness the number of applications signed to date).

While these new tools should help to significantly reduce the costs of entry into C++ development for Symbian OS, the key motivation for any developer to embrace Symbian OS will not come from a reduction in the cost of tools, it will come from the market opportunity. The real enabler is market volume, a market that is growing to not tens of millions of potential customers but to hundreds of millions over then next couple of years. This does nothing to take away from the tool announcements, but a focus on the cost of building applications should not be allowed to obscure the ultimate goal of any development, which is generating revenue.

If there was area where the Smartphone Show failed developers it was in not telling them the revenue story. Perhaps it seems too obvious, but concerns about development cost rather than application earnings seemed to occupy developers more. This is a great shame as Symbian OS has many good stories to tell about success.

For more information on the tools announcements see:

Find all our coverage of The Smartphone Show here.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 22 October 2005 )


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