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A Developer Support Perspective on the Symbian Foundation Print E-mail
Written by SymbianOne   
Tuesday, 14 October 2008
In this interview Richard Bloor talks to Antony Edwards, Vice President, Developer Product Marketing at Symbian. The discussion includes how developers will be able to contribute to the Symbian Foundation, the challenge of software distribution and how the Symbian Foundation's developer program is shaping up.

Richard: What benefits are you hoping to achieve for developers through the creation of the Symbian Foundation?

Antony: The Symbian Foundation will offer developers many benefits and make it easier for them to tap into the huge potential offered by Symbian devices.

In terms of the mechanics of software development, the number one benefit will be the unity and coherence the Foundation brings. This is going to affect all developers, from those working with silicon vendors through to third-party application developers and students. They are no longer going to have to deal with the fragmentation between S 60, UIQ, and MOAP. This means they'll have not only one single set of APIs, but also one place where they can get all the tools and information they need for development. So the SDK, development tools, API documentation and education will be in one place. It will be in one format and well integrated.

From a commercial perspective the main benefit will be that the Foundation will massively increase the market share of Symbian devices. We will see them push further into the mass market, but also into higher end devices. Even in the categories where Symbian is already strong, I expect the Foundation will drive growth further too. This will happen because the Foundation's open source approach removes the barriers that have held licensees back: the concern associated with choosing a single OS that might be perceived as belonging to rival companies.

The other really fantastic benefit is access to the source code. This will enable developers to understand the platform and exploit its features better. We ship a lot of great technology in Symbian OS, but it can often take quite some time for developers to become proficient in using it. Having the source code will allow developers to gain a better understanding of the features they are already familiar with and accelerate their ability to take advantage of new features. I also know that many developers have itches they want to scratch in the Symbian OS code, and now they will be able to do something about that, because they will be able to contribute code back into the source tree.

Richard: If the Foundation becomes a one-stop-shop, what will happen to the licensees' developer programs? After all we have seen Samsung just launch their developer support for S60.

Antony: Device vendors are in the business of differentiation and this will continue. While I don't have a definitive answer, I expect that the manufacturer's developer support programs will be about supporting that differentiation. This is very likely to be around specific applications and services. The other area will be in hardware additions to devices. This will probably be for input devices or external peripherals where only one manufacturer has that technology. Their developer programs with then be the source for the APIs to exploit those technologies. And the SDK's will be designed to allow these features to plug-in seamlessly.

From the discussions I've been involved in, I don't expect any platform like technologies to be appearing from individual manufacturers before they arrive in the platform.

Richard: You mentioned that developers will be able to contribute to the source code. Is this really going to be practical?

Antony: This is something we are discussing a lot at the moment. We like the way the Eclipse Foundation works and as you know the Symbian Foundation has adopted the EPL. We also expect to adopt some of the Eclipse working practices too. So it is likely we will see committer groups of experts created for technologies and projects. The members of those groups will come from the people who will make the most significant contribution, not just representatives from the bigger members of the Foundation. This sort of commitment is unlikely to appeal to smaller developers, simply because of the time and effort involved. For those developers there will be a collaboration infrastructure hosted by the Foundation with an area per project. So someone who finds a defect or a better way of working will be able to submit it to a forum and lobby for support from one of the committers.

Even though the Symbian Foundation has been created as a consortium of billion dollar corporations, we really want to get across the message that there's going to be a way for every developer to get their changes into the code line.

Richard: Perhaps the biggest issue for many developers is selling software. Symbian seems to be losing ground in this area to the recent entrants. Is this something the Foundation will be addressing?

Antony: It hasn't escaped our attention that the go-to-market story for developers, particularly small third-party developers, could be stronger. It's definitely a big part of the conversations we are having and some sort of app store or bazaar run by the Foundation is likely. I can't give any definitive answers, but its something we are working on.

It's important, as we have to be encouraging small developers and innovators, as well as more established small third-party developers. Just a few hundred dollars extra revenue can make all the difference to these developers.So, it's important that we can find a low friction mechanism to support the distribution and sale of their applications. For example, I'm pushing hard for a ensuring a zero, or a close as possible to zero, cost to the software vendor: so no cut of revenue for the Foundation.

I believe we can do this, as the Foundation has the buy-in from a broad range of operators and device manufacturers who understand it is the central mechanism for supporting Symbian OS. So a consumer platform for application sales should come from the Foundation. I'm optimistic that we will be able to make developers very happy.

Richard: The Symbian Foundation is clearly a big change for developers, how are you planning to communicate those changes and build developer involvement?

Antony: We are aware of the need to clearly communicate with developers. The Smartphone Show is going to be our first big opportunity to start this process and gather feedback. I think they will be impressed with how much progress we've made. We have an ask-the-expert session during the Mobile DevFest. This will provide a mechanism to gather feedback about developer perceptions of the Foundation and help us determine how developers want us to communicate with them.

The ask-the-expert session Antony is referring to is the Panel session: Symbian Foundation - setting the future of mobile software free from 10am until noon on Tuesday 21 October, during the Smartphone Show.


For more on the Symbian Foundation See The Following:

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 14 October 2008 )


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