May 112011
 

Traditionally, mobile games were developed by developers who took the risk, and reaped the rewards. A studio called Bravado Waffle has decided to try and turn this process over by using “venture capital” contributed by users.

Read on to find out more about them…

Please tell us more about yourself and your company
I’m Stephen, the CEO and Game Designer for Bravado Waffle Studios. We are a startup mobile game development company based in San Francisco. We are made up of 3 team members right now and we have been working for the past seven months on our debut title RoboArena for the iPhone and iPad iOS devices. RoboArena will be a multiplayer casual strategy game inspired by the classic board game RoboRally, and is just the first of many titles we have slated to develop.

Please describe the program for which you seek crowd funding
We are turning to Kickstarter for fund raising to help us complete the development of RoboArena and start the marketing. Kickstarter is an exciting platform that allows small startup companies and entrepreneurs crowd source their fund raising. Supporters pledge money to the projects they would like to see completed, and get to be a direct part in the development cycle. What makes it even more exciting is the fact that it not only allows you to raise funds, it lets you build a community of loyal invested supporters and fans. These fans are what will make or break your success, especially in the competitive world of iOS Apps. Crowd Funding is fund raising, market research, and community building all wrapped into one!

Traditionally, developers have born the risk of development costs themselves. What has motivated you to deviate from this strategy
Traditions are old and crusty, they are made to be overturned. My question is: Why bear all the financial risk if you don’t have to? Web 2.0 has brought us many ways to waste our time, but it has also brought new and exciting ways for savvy startups to raise funds and build their fan bases. Going the crowd funding route, you literally have nothing to loose and everything to gain. It lets you interact directly with your fans, it lets them be a part of the process and feel like they are part of something bigger, it can endear you to your fan base, and it lets you see just how interesting your ideas really are!

How did you set up the crowd funding process
We researched what it took to run a successful campaign and structured ours so that it had the best chance to succeed. We planned the pledge tiers carefully and weighed the costs involved so that we could set a reasonable and fair funding goal. We decided to go with Kickstarter even though it limits us to a US audience since it is the most popular platform out there and has the biggest audience. This is important for us since we didn’t come into the campaign with a fan base to start out.

Above, you mention that you expect support from the fans who invested into the game. What kind of support do you expect?
Well these fans that are willing to invest in your campaign will likely help you in spreading the word to their friends, and giving your game great reviews. They get to feel like they are a big part of the games production, and indeed they are. Word of mouth recommendations is the very best way to market and advertise a game, and it’s probably the hardest as well.

Given that this is an iOS title, I always include a few generic questions. Do you still see sense in supporting OS 3?
Of course. There’s a ton of older devices out there, and not supporting the previous OS systems would be like shooting ourselves in the foot. Especially since our game is 2D and *hopefully* will be easy to run on them. I don’t know the numbers of those who run the older iOS versions, but I’m guessing it’s surprisingly high.

Do you plan to port your products to other platforms
We’d love to port it to Android as well as release the game on the Mac App store. Steam is also an option for the future that we are considering since it is very indie game friendly.

Jul 102010
 

We brought you the official slides of the Nokia Qt Lounge in Vienna yesterday – now it’s time for the QA session with Andreas. Andreas faced a large amount of questions, but was quickly “protected” by Nokia Austria staff as questions became too sensitive.

Nevertheless, quite a few questions were answered – read on…

WTF happened with Mobilizy being allowed to do Qt in Ovi
Mobilizy’s exceptional permission to have a Qt app in the Ovi Store has angered many a developer – with some even threatening to make the matter public at various events. Andreas Jakl obviously felt uncomfortable with this question, and stated the following:

What Mobilizy does is this: they bundled the Qt packages into their SIS file. This created a huge sis file, and will create binary compatibility issues later on -> QA will no longer accept this.

At no point were they ever using Smart Installer in the Ovi Store.

When will S40 go the way of the Dodo
Andreas went on to explain that the need for S40 becomes visible only if you look outside of Europe and North America. In many regions of Africa, even the 100€ charged for low-end Symbnian devices is way too much.

There, devices have tiny screens to allow for three-week battery life -> Symbian performs poorly on small screens, and also needs too potent hardware for such scenarios.

Will we see more Symbian^3 devices
Yes, many. Soon. The roadmap also contains many (his words) S^4 devices.

What does Nokia think about Qt being ported to other mobile platforms
Here, the answer was a short and enthusiastic cool, we’re all for it.

He then went on to say that Nokia itself can’t support Qt on platforms where the manufacturer or owner does not want to have it (he named Android).

Will there be Qt updates for existing devices
This is the question which got Andreas pulled off the stage. He struggled for a long time, and then said “no comment”.

(Tam Hanna comment – NOT Andreas’s words)
For me, it is obvious that the possibility is at least being evaluated at Nokia HQ. However, the issue – from my point of view – is that Qt gets updated all the time. This means that the libraries would be outdated by the time they pass a carrier certification, thereby creating an insane and unmanageable mess.
(End of Tam Hanna)

In the end, the event did a lot to pacify developers like yours truly. Andreas has an extremely strong technical background, which makes him “trustable” for developers – Forum Nokia did a great choice sending him to hold this event on “his home turf”…

Tune in soon for the final bit of coverage – the N8 demo…

Apr 032010
 

Traditionally, roadmaps were defined by manufacturers. If you are an open-source gang, deciding where to go obviously is more complex – but the process is also more open to enquiring analysts.

Being based in London obviously has its benefits here. AllAboutSymbian’s Rafe sat down with Ian Hutton, and “made him talk”.

The full 7-minute video is below:

P.S. AllAboutSymbian really is worth following – if for the videos alone…

Mar 182010
 

qt for android tnl Qt on Android   the Bogdan Vatra interviewBeing the developer of a Qt-based mobile solution is really really nice nowadays – especially as Android support is well on its way. For all those of you new to the topic: the moment Qt has been ported, you can run your Qt-based applications on the operating system.

The man pictured on the right is Bogdan Vatra, the brain behind the Qt port – let’s see what he has to say!

Please tell us more about yourself
I am Bogdan Vatra, and I work for Route 66. Route 66 is a major Romanian company. (editors remark: they do navigation).

What has motivated you to port Qt to Android
I love Qt, and I love Android. Do I need more motivation?

Ok, I have to give credit where credit is due: Nokia started a project called LightHouse, which makes porting really easy…

Sorry for the stupid question, but what is LightHouse
LightHouse is a project to make porting Qt easy. Essentially, you just need to create a plugin which moves your content to the screen of the device. In my case, I did that and ported the shared memory concept and semaphore model -> done.

Given this: is your port complete?
No. But the main modules of Qt are there.

I am still missing OpenGL and most multimedia APIs. Furthermore, there is no support for an on-screen keyboard at the moment…

As a developer: what must I do to support Android?
Download my port and recompile. But you can’t release the results yet, as the LightHouse branch is still experimental. So we need to wait until it gets merged into the main Qt branch…

Do you have a timeframe for that?
Sorry, no – this depends on Nokia more than on me.

Update: Sir Vatra has just requested that I add this to the interview:

Sorry, no – this depends on Nokia more than on me.” is a little bit confusing. I don’t want people to understand that Nokia don’t want to merge my project with their project, because I never request such a thing. What I mean it was “This depend on Nokia to finish and merge *their* research project (*lighthouse*) into the main Qt branch, after that I can request a merge with main Qt”.

Given that Android is a competitor – how has Nokia reacted to the port?
They didn’t know about it until a few days ago – but have been very happy about it since.

Where can we find out more?
The project is hosted at Google Code – hit the URL below:
http://code.google.com/p/android-lighthouse/

Aug 302009
 

1a Interview: Berthold Thoma, CEO, Hutchison AustriaHutchison Austria’s CEO Berthold Thoma is known to be extremely talkative when faced with journalists – the interview below has him talking about a few interesting things.

Before diving into the (translated) interview, let me give you some background information from other sources: this carrier has always invested heavily into smartphones due to their multimedia features. Originally being deep in Microsoft’s camp, they have since moved over to the S60 camp (which makes up for about 30% of the offered handset models). The carrier is known for its great service at affordable prices – here we go:

The Hutchison Group was the first to offer free roaming all over its network. Why that?
At Hutchison’s, we are convinced that having cheap data access all over the world is an integral part of information society. We have realized thiis vision inside our group via the 3LikeHome service.

Of course, there is a business plan behind all of that. Our research has shown that cheap roaming is in demand. Lowering prices causes usage to explode: in the first year, voice usage in 3likehome networks increased by 427 percent, with data usage being multiplied by a factor of 90.

Do you think that we will see further carrier mergers?
The trend has already started. Three of the four Austrian carrieirs are already in international networks, which will consolidate even more on a long term.

Where do you see Windows Mobile in two years?
We currently sell three Windows Mobile handsets. Our business customers love the Exchange integration, and Microsoft furthermore does a great job integrating Live into the OS.

I predict that WM’s market share will raise over the next two years. The main risk IMHO is Android…if it continues to fare as well as it did, it could become a significant competitor.

What do you think about S60
S60 has had some problems staying in line with other OS’s, especially when apps and the web browser are concerned. I wonder which future updates Nokia will deploy in order to remain competitive…

The iPhone is said to dominate the handset market. Do you think that Apple can keep this position?
Apple has caused movement in the handset market, but has since maxed out at a 13 percent smartphone market share…which is not something I call dominance.
Nevertheless: customers benefit from every movement on the market which leads to better handsets.

What do you think about picocells?
In general, these do not pay off financially. However, I can envision them being deployed to cover hot spots like shopping centres….

Will VoIP replace classic voice calls?
VoIP definitely is interesting, especially for customers who are into international calls. Teens furthermore love Skype. Unlike most other carriers, we want to help our customers realize the benefits of these services and thus provide pre-bundled Skype with some of our handsets.

As for VoIP replacing classic calls: unlikely.

Aug 082009
 

anssi makela On the Nokia N97’s keyboard
Anssi Makela has wrote in insisting that he is now in Nokia’s Search and Social team.
Nokia’s recent Stuttgart event gave me the opportunity to interact a bit with Anssi Makela – he is now in platform marketing, but used to work in Search&Social and thus is pretty tech at times.

According to him, the keyboard layout of the Nokia N97 was not accidental but intentional: Nokia intentionally wanted to try out something else – their user tests have revealed that placing the space bar on the right side leads to significant benefits for some users.

We then went out to test the N97 against the XPERIA X1 using the words “ANSSI “ and “WHAT “, and found out that both devices usually came out tied or within a 20% margin – which means that the two layouts have no inherent disadvantages to one another.

However, one key point remains: habits. Nokia is actively trying to establish a new pattern with the N97, and will see how it works out for the average user.

Anssi furthermore asked me to state clearly that the N97 is not a business device. It is instead intended for somebody who wants everything in one box, and is willing to compromise – which is definitely an area where the N97 excels…

Aug 052009
 

 David Wood on David WoodDavid Wood recently gave us an interview regarding the future of the S60 platform. Even though it was well-received, he got back in touch with us, posting the following clarifications / additional infiormation:

Hi – A few quick clarifications…

The body of the article is correct but I would not have chosen a headline talking about the death of S60 / Avkon. That’s misleading (though attention-grabbing):

a.) S60 will continue: there are huge amounts of non-UI APIs, which will be available to developers from S^4 onwards

b.) Avkon has a lot of life left in it in the meantime! It’s impossible to know for sure, but there could be 100s of million new devices shipped on S^1, S^2, and S^3, in the months and years ahead. That’s a huge opportunity for application developers to bear in mind.

Second to answer some comments from PaulT:

It’s true, Qt itself can coexist fine with existing Avkon and S60. It’s not Qt, but Orbit (the new set of UI elements) that causes the incompatibility. However, even with Qt and Orbit installed, the vast majority of Symbian platform APIs will continue to be accessible, as before.

>endless partnering requests with Nokia for non platform API’s

Happily, that’s something that the move to open source should render unnecessary!

The difficult question is: why not support Avkon alongside Orbit? That’s a decision for the Symbian community as a whole to take. It’s conceivable that some manufacturers might ship devices like this, but it looks more likely (from reading the discussions on the Symbian Developer Forums) that complete removal of Avkon will allow a more efficient software system that will also pose less confusion to end-users.

Another big question is: when should Symbian be talking to developers about this forthcoming change. Some people say “it’s too early to introduce this news” and others “it’s already too late” :-)
So I think we’ve probably got the timing about right.

// David Wood, Symbian

With that, everything should be clear ;) .

Aug 042009
 

 David Wood: S60 / Avkon are deadWell-informed individuals have known about the upcoming death of the S60 platform some time – unfortunately, some (influential) individuals had Yucca leaves in their ears during the announcement and continue to peddle dangerous and wrong information.

David Wood has provided us with extra information, which can be had here.

The TamsS60 team sat down with its long-time friend and benefactor, David Wood. He talked openly about the next binary break – the full scoop is below:

Please tell us more about yourself & your current role at Symbian
I have spent more than 20 years envisioning, architecting, implementing, and avidly using smart mobile devices (devices that can also be called “personal electronic brains”): ten years with PDA manufacturer Psion PLC, and then ten more with smartphone operating system specialist Symbian Ltd. Since 2009 I have been part of the Leadership Team of the Symbian Foundation, with the job title “Catalyst and Futurist”.

As ‘Catalyst’, my role is to enable the Symbian software movement to discover and explore innovative solutions for the many challenges and opportunities faced by the mobile industry.

As ‘Futurist’, my role is to distil compelling visions of the future of technology, business, and society – visions that provide the energy and inspiration for deeply productive open collaboration among the many creators and users of mobile products.

Which role will Qt take in future releases of Symbian?
From Symbian^4, Qt will become the preferred programming environment for many parts of S60 app development. Qt is widely regarded as a productive, elegant set of class libraries, with a great deal of active community support.

Does this mean that the current way of developing S60 apps will be phased out?
Yes, the plan is that the current “S60 Avkon” APIs for the UIs of applications will be phased out. Other public APIs (such as for middleware and engine portions of applications) will continue to be supported.

For a developer who currently does S60v5 apps: what is the latest release of Symbian which will be able to run them?
These applications should run fine on devices built with Symbian^3. Engine level components of applications (which don’t use any S60 Avkon APIs) should run fine on later devices.

Will Carbide be discontinued?
There are no plans to discontinue Carbide. Carbide will continue to evolve and be enhanced.

Will the Symbian UI be changed significantly in the future? Will this endanger binary compatibility?
There will be significant changes – both incremental and (in the case of the transition to Symbian^4) revolutionary. There will be a large break in binary compatibility with Symbian^4 (emphasis by editor). Such a step is not taken lightly, but it seems to be the emerging view of the Symbian community that the large benefits of this break will outweigh the undeniable drawbacks.

The big picture here is that a change in UI idiom and development environment will result in very significantly improved productivity, and in turn in a huge range of impressive and attractive applications.

Could you explain us what Horizon does?
Symbian Horizon is an application-publishing platform designed to reduce barriers to success and increase the profitability of delivering applications on the Symbian platform. Horizon will provide a service that allows developers to write an application once, and publish in dozens of stores worldwide. See http://developer.symbian.org/main/horizon/ for details.

Anything you would like to add?
I encourage readers to become involved in the Symbian conversation – reading and commenting on the blog posts at http://blog.symbian.org, discussing developer issues at http://developer.symbian.org, and proposing and debating ideas on the future of mobile at http://ideas.symbian.org.

Jul 202009
 

The folks at CellPhoneSoft’s can easily be considered veterans of the Symbian industry – having been in the market for literally ages, they have recently released yet another product for the doomed UIQ platform.

Zoltan Gyorgypal recently accepted my invitation for an interview, and talked about the past and the future of Symbian. Enjoy!

Please tell us more about yourself and your company
Originally I’m a biologist, holding a PhD in molecular genetics. I became interested in programming while writing specialized utilities for laboratory use. I was doing PC projects for a few years, and then switched to writing mobile applications, when the first smartphones became popular.

CellPhoneSoft (CPS) was born in 2004, with the release of FrontView for the first Sony Ericsson P-series phones. CPS has always been a small company, mostly consisting of myself. As a consequence, only one platform was initially targeted, namely Symbian UIQ2, and then UIQ3. CPS is traditionally focused on producing system utilities for power users.

Recent changes in the mobile industry have led to a transition in the company portfolio. S60 and other future Symbian platforms are now supported, and the first such application (Speedy Go!) was released earlier this year. Recently my friend Nandor Balogh joined the venture as the business leader.

You have recently released a new UIQ title. Do you think that developing for UIQ still is commercially viable?
The application you mention is Swiss Manager (SM), which has been one of the most popular programs for UIQ. There is a demand for similar software on S60, therefore we are porting SM to that platform. We decided to add the new features intended for S60 first to the proven UIQ codebase, and release a version (SM Elite) for UIQ, before doing the migration to S60. In this way the porting process will start out from a well-defined, complete product, and also the UIQ users received the updated software.

In any case, in the present situation I would not say that developing for UIQ in general makes a lot of economical sense. We are observing the market and adjust our activities according to the latest conditions.

How do you feel about Symbian’s decision to give up on UIQ?
I feel sorry for the fate of UIQ. This is not just because I have been writing software for that platform. UIQ Technology, as a company, may have come to an end, but (in my opinion) the platform they produced is still the most advanced user interface variant for converged mobile devices. The story of UIQ is an example of how business mismanagement can ruin the development of technology.

I must add it is somewhat ironic that UIQ was abandoned by its shareholders at the exact same time when the iPhone became popular. Apple managed to change the overall attitude of average phone users against the touch-screen, and gave a lesson to other manufacturers. Nokia responded with S60 5th edition, took over Symbian, and while all these happened, UIQ (with its advanced touch-screen offerings) was eliminated. It is indeed strange and sad.

I welcome the idea of having a unified Symbian platform. However, replacing UIQ with a much less advanced S60 touch implementation looks like a big mistake. I’m pretty sure a lot of UIQ’s advantages will be re-introduced in the future, and a lot of resources will be wasted while re-inventing the wheel.

If we are already at it: we are in for another UI stack change in the near future. How do you feel about this?
I think you mean the prospected transition of Symbian from the current S60 interface to a new UI platform, based on Qt and Orbit. Well, Symbian is quite infamous about regularly breaking the compatibility of existing code, so all this is not unusual. The reasons are understandable, the mobile industry experiences a fast technological development, which certainly requires major updates to software. However, this does not make the life of a developer any easier. One must try looking into future and get prepared well in advance, as much as it is possible.

Looking at S60: how do you feel about Carbide’s UI designer?
I must confess I’m not using it. So far I had no particular reason to switch to Carbide from CodeWarrior. Obviously time will come to do so, and I hope the latest development tools will be satisfactory by that occasion.

Signage costs and eekers have always been annoying – especially on Ovi. How do you feel about this particular gem of Nokia’s?
In brief, I do not like the ways how platform security and application signing is implemented in Symbian. While I can understand why these had to be introduced, in practice it seems they have made much more harm than benefit. Therefore, our policy at CPS has been to avoid signing our products, even for the price of losing some functionality and some markets. I can only hope that the situation will improve in the future, and security will not contradict that much to the interests of users and developers. The new initiatives of the Symbian Foundation, including the Horizon, look promising.

Do you think that making development easier is the right way to get more apps? Isn’t making signing cheaper a better way?
Our main problem with signing is not the cost, but instead the uncertainty it introduces into planning and releases. The release process becomes dependent on external authorities, that tend to work unreliably, as past experience shows. There is much room to improve the service, and I hope this will happen in the future. Improving the development tools is also very important for having a healthy amount of third-party developers for the platform. Again, the Symbian Foundation seems to play a major positive role in shaping the future.

Could you tell us a bit more about how Speedy Go works?
Speedy Go! for S60 is based on our earlier product, called Tweak Peaks, which was able to dramatically increase the performance of early UIQ3 devices by Sony Ericsson. The method used by Tweak Peaks was further improved and then adapted for S60 phones.

The exact method is a trade secret, so I rather tell you what Speedy Go! does NOT do. It is not an overclocker, so it does not directly manipulate the CPU. It also does not directly switch off animation and transition effects. What it indeed does is setting up some internal services which has a “side-effect” of resulting in an overall performance improvement.

The acceleration is rather variable on different devices, so the best is to try Speedy Go! and see how much speed boost it can achieve on a particular phone. We included a speed testing feature to help estimating the acceleration.

Feel like telling us a bit about the future of your company?
2009 is a year of changes for CPS. We have changed the organization, are entering into new collaborations, and are re-shaping the product portfolio. While we are still looking at UIQ, the emphasis is now on S60 and its future successors.

Our nearest plan is to port and release a number of existing products for S60. This phase will be followed by brand-new applications. In the long term we would like to remain adaptive to the changing mobile industry, and keep on serving users with quality software.

Anything you would like to add?
I thank you for the opportunity to talk to your readers, and wish all of us an improving experience with future’s smartphones.

Jun 162009
 

Opera ASA, the manufacturer of various mobile browsers, has managed to gain a cult following on almost all platforms: Windows Mobile heads love the superb rendering engine, Symbian heads used to love the tabs and Palm OS and BlackBerry heads used Opera Mini to replace their crappy default browsers.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Thomas Ford from Opera Mini on various topics ranging from tab-capable Opera Mini builds to Opera Turbo and Opera for S60 – read on for the full scoop..

Please tell us more about yourself and your company
My name is Thomas Ford. I’m a communications manager for Opera. I started working for Opera in 2005, so I’ve been pretty lucky to watch some of our more recent history unfold.

Opera is the only company in the world that makes Web browsers for all devices. So whether you have a PC, high-end smartphone, Web-enabled TV, or even a Ford F150, you could have an Opera browser there as well.

Despite what some people believe, Opera isn’t a small company. We have more than 700 employees working in our offices around the globe. I think what impresses me the most is how passionate everyone is about the business of building Web browsers. You could look, but I am confident you would not find another company of its kind anywhere.

As it stands now, mobile devices get more and more powerful by the minute. This makes native browsers more and more competitive. Don’t you think that this will squeeze OPM out of the market?
I think despite the advances in native browsers there will still be plenty of room for Opera. Native browsers are really improving on only one type of device: smartphones.

On those higher-end phones we still offer plenty of advantages to consumers, operators and phone manufacturers. For one, we offer Opera Mini and Opera Turbo to help ease the bandwidth constraints on today’s mobile networks. Creating a browser is hard work and we have the experience to make great mobile browsers that consumers enjoy using.

We’ve been doing it for 10 years and that experience gives us the ability to do things faster and more cost effectively for our partners.

At the same time, smartphones comprise less than 15% of the total phone market. By far, more phones are sold without high-end browsers natively. For these phones, Opera Mini is the ideal solution. Operators love it because a better browser translates to more data revenues, so we actively work with operators to offer the same Web browsing experience throughout their device portfolio.

Opera Mini shines on devices where the integrated browser sucks (think Palm OS Treos). As mobile web browsers get better, don’t you think that Opera Mini will fade away?
Rather than fade away, Opera Mini will continue to evolve. Consumers demand a better mobile Web experience, but not all OEMs and operators want to put their resources into making a Web browser, particularly as consumer expectations increase. We can offer Opera Mini very easily to operators they know it will work on almost all their phones, with minimal effort on their part. At the same time, it makes surfing on these phones enjoyable, so more consumers actually use it. This translates into greater revenues for operators while at the same time consumers have a good experience. By addressing both what operators and OEMs need, as well as what consumers want, I think Opera Mini will have a bright future.

I should also point out that there are approximately 1.6 billion people on the Web, but that anywhere from 50 to 60 percent of the world’s citizens have a mobile phone connection. Over the coming years more people will get online with a mobile device than ever did with a PC. I think that trend will continue to ensure both Opera Mobile and Opera Mini remain vibrant products.

What about the future features of Opera Mini? Will it ever get tab support, for instance (the beta was available some time ago).
Tab support is definitely one of the most requested features for Opera Mini. I can tell you that we listen loud and clear to the feedback we receive. Opera Mini 5, when released, will be a major step forward for Opera Mini. I think you and your readers will be quite excited.

The native version of Opera is under pressure as OS vendors improve their browsers (think IE6 mobile). Where do you see Opera Mobile two years from now, and now will it remain competitive?
I think Opera Mobile will support more platforms and will include even more server-side technologies to improve browsing on mobile devices. Due to the sheer size of the required investment, newer mobile broadband technologies are not rolling out as quickly as the newest, most advanced handsets. Opera Mobile will help bridge that gap.

I also think in general you will see more operators and OEMs looking for a single, unified browsing solution across their product portfolio. Opera is the only company that will work with operators and OEMs to create a browser that can work on all their devices. We can even include widgets, for eaiser access to Web-based applications. Our work with T-Mobile on their web’n'walk platform speaks to what we can accomplish when we collaborate with world-class operators.

A version of Opera Mobile which uses the 3d chip of some phones for scrolling has been announced some time ago. Why isnt it available for purchase yet?
Actually, we just announced a beta of Opera Mobile 9.7. It supports some of the hardware acceleration you mentioned. If you have a Windows Mobile phone, visit http://www.opera.com/mobile/download/ to give it a spin.

What about Opera for Symbian? We have heard of licensing troubles with the Flash player in the past…
Clearly consumers now more than ever want Flash on their handsets, primarily to access the wealth of Flash-based video content on the Web. Adobe understands this and we are actively working with them to find a solution.

As far as a browser for Symbian, our current focus is on the widget platform for Series 60. Expect to see news on the browser front sometime this year.

Opera’s accelerator proxy looked very promising in the demo video. When will it become available to end users, and at what price?
Right now Opera Turbo is available for free in the new Opera Mobile 9.7 and Opera 10 desktop versions. All those servers and all that bandwidth comes at a price though, so we are still studying how this affects our business model.

I suspect by the time Opera 10 reaches its final release, we will have our business model in place for Opera Turbo.

When will Opera be available for the BlackBerry?
As a BlackBerry user myself, I would be lost without Opera Mini. If you’re looking for Opera Mobile on BlackBerry that may take some time, so Opera Mini is still your best choice.

Only good things will come from more people using Opera Mini on BlackBerries. For instance, with more people testing and identifying issues, we can fix them faster. Maybe a large user base on BlackBerry will also help us in the same way that it worked for Virgin Mobile. They found a lot of their customers were using Opera Mini, so they reached out to us and we worked with them to perfect our browser on their phones.

Anything you would like to add?
Thanks for the chat. Using our browser is one way to support our goal of making the Web an open resource for everyone. I hope more people discover the mobile Web through Opera Mini.

Mar 182009
 

Mobile content providers have always made me wonder about the economies of mobile computing – they run extremely expensive ads, sell very bad programs and yet don’t die off.

I recently had a cup of tea with somebody from this industry who wants to remain anonymous but nevertheless wanted to talk…here’s what our buddy had to say:

Do you sell subscriptions only?
We advertise subscriptions only. However, individual downloads can also be bought via the web sites.

Does the heavy MTV, etc advertising pay?
Well…first of all you must look at it this way. We buy huge amounts of airtime…so our total cost is much lower than what you see on the rate cards.

On average, well, we pay a few hundred thousand euros a month…and it obviously pays out for us.

What’s your average user?
Dumbphone user – no heavy-duty smartphones in here. Age ranges from 13 to about 19…and the users arent too smart. This actually makes our life easier, as piracy becomes a non-issue.

One more facet you will likely be interested in is that we have over 90 percent female users for some love or partnership related fun apps…

How long, on average, does a customer stay bound?
I don’t want to say more here as this would give my identity away…but it’s about four and a half months for all of the industry.

What happens if users are on prepaid and run out of cash?
We try to bill his card for about two months…and then give up eventually… . Our company is not too big on lawsuits…they don’t pay out for us…

Do you do native S60 or PPC apps?
Hell gee, mate. Covering all S60 boxen gets you 20 percent of the market at best. J2ME is king here…and also keep in mind that most of the sales come from music or photos.

How can an ISV do business with you?
Not at all – find an aggregator.

You have to think of it this way: we sell hundred thousand and more positions. For us, 60 items is nothing…we usually wont even negotiate with you.

Why not offer individual apps as subscriptions?
Please don’t say that I sound haughty if I say that all business models possible have been tested. The current model works best – believe me on this one.

Did the German Jamba lawsuit affect your ability to do business with minors?
I have to say that this is largely irrelevant to us, as it was limited to a single county of Germany. We sit in a different county…so no impact here.

After that, my informer was picked up by a mate…so the story ends here. Nevertheless, much of this was new to me, and hopefully was interesting!

What do you think?

Dec 112008
 

nsblogo2 NS Basic   the interviewGeorge Henne’s NS Basic is an extremely popular RAD tool for mobile platforms – developers who would like to use a VB like tool, flock to it in droves.

Unfortunately, the company’s representatives have not proved too talkative so far. This has now changed, though – look forward to a highly interesting interview looking at the development landscape, mobile computing platforms and – last but not least – the iPhone and its distant predecessor, the Newton!

Please tell me more about yourself!
NS BASIC was founded on the idea that if development tools were easier to use, more people could develop apps for mobile devices.

The most widely used dev tool in the world (53%, according to Microsoft) is Visual Basic. It seemed natural to design a VB like tool for mobile devices.

Our customers are in all sorts of industries, government and education.
We have been translated into half a dozen languages: our users are in over 80 countries. Close to 20,000 developers use our products.

Diving straight into your core business (NsBasic). Tell us in a short form why the world needs yet another Basic clone!
Everyone knows Basic, for good reason. It has a gentle learning curve.
Beginning programmers can understand the concepts easily and create their first apps right away. Modern Basic implementations are well enough designed so that it is reasonable to do sophisticated applications.

Where do you see the main benefits for developers?
Ease of use and quick development are the main ones. We have had many reports of experienced C++ developers using NS Basic to put together a quick proof of concept: In a day or two, they have a workable prototype to show the customer. It often works out that there is no need to spend
2 more months recoding in C++.

On the other extreme, there are professionals in other fields that would like to develop apps for handheld devices. For example, many doctors have specific apps that would help them in their work. They’re smart people, and have learned a bit of programming on the way. They find NS Basic is just the tool for them to create apps.

How does NSBasic work? Do the programs compile to native code, or is a runtime needed?
There is a runtime, but we do our best to keep it in the background, so it isn’t a big deal. Nearly all apps have some sort of runtime these days, whether it is in form of libraries, DLL files or overlays.
Runtimes do not mean the app has to run more slowly: in fact, key code in our runtime is written in ARM assembler for peak performance. What they do is add a great deal of power: a single statement in NS Basic will replace pages of C++ coding.

You have a very strong market in the Palm OS sector. Where do you see the Palm OS going? Which platform(s) will dominate the market in a year’s worth of time?
Palm was a strong marketplace for us for many years. For Palm’s sake, I hope their new devices come out in a timely fashion and can wow the marketplace. We will certainly support them if they do.

NS Basic/Symbian OS already outsells NS Basic/Palm. We’re working hard to make it a great product: we think it will be an important part of our future.

Do you feel the US sub-prime crisis?
Not directly. It’s likely that the economic uncertainly is leading companies to put off new development projects, which will certainly affect us. It’s a worldwide affair this time, which is different from past downturns.

To what extent is NSBasic compatible with VB and/or AppForge?
NS Basic is a subset of VB, with extensions to take advantage of the mobile platform it runs on. The important things a VB programmer needs are all there – but there are a lot of specific and weird things in VB that didn’t really have a place on mobile devices. An obvious example is Windows specific features, that just do not exist on other operating systems such as Symbian OS.

AppForge was a strange case. Technically, it wasn’t great, but it had a big marketing budget. When that ran out, the company was gone: the licensing model was not friendly to its customers.

Many AppForge customers have converted to NS Basic: it is entertaining to read their comments:
http://www.nsbasic.com/palm/info/kudos5.html

You have recently expanded your reach across platforms – is porting an app significant effort for the developer?
Moving to a new platform is not new to us: Symbian OS is our fourth major platform.

For developers who use our tools, it’s not too bad. NS Basic/Palm apps move to Symbian OS usually with no changes at all. Of course, once you are there, it is tempting to make use of features that are specific to the new devices: better graphics, extra features, etc.

You still support Apple’s Newton – does it still pay? Furthermore: do you plan to go iPhone one day?
We still have a lot of affection for the Newton. We still sell the occasional copy of NS Basic/Newton. It’s an important platform in the history of mobile computing. You’d be surprised how many current developers of handheld devices started on the Newton. I think the devices we are seeing these days are finally beginning to realize the potential that the Newton introduced us to 15 years ago.

We actually have NS Basic/iPhone working:
http://cdn.smugmug.com/ria/ShizVidz-2008051501.swf

Under the terms of Apple’s iPhone SDK, tools such as NS Basic may not be released. If they should ever change this policy, we would love to release the product!

Anything you would like to add?
I think the next two years will be very interesting for developers. The iPhone changed the rules and everyone is still trying to catch up. It’s good to see touch screen S60 devices: now the software has to catch up.
Our tools have always been touch screen oriented, so we are ready for the fun!

NS Basic has a large and active user community. If you have questions about our product, let us know. We’ll be around to help, along with many of our other users.

Nov 182008
 

David William Wood is one of the head honchos of the Symbian Foundation – in fact, he was the unnamed keynote announcer who handled all the keynotes at the recent Smartphone Show.

Anyways, David’s blog contains a transcript of a recent talk he held – as it answers a few highly interesting questions on the Foundation, I have reposted the relevant part here for your enjoyment:

Here’s how I expect the Symbian platform to prove itself in the next 12-18 months. Our move to open source was announced in June this year, and we said it could take up to two years to complete it. Since then, planning has been continuing, at great speed. Lee Williams, current head of the S60 organisation in Nokia, and formerly of Palm Inc and Be Inc, has been announced as the Executive Director of the Symbian Foundation.

The Foundation will make its first software release midway through the first half of 2009. Up till that point, access to internal Symbian OS source code is governed by our historical CustKit Licence and DevKit Licence. There’s a steep entry price, around 30,000 dollars per year, and a long contract to sign to gain access, so the community of platform developers has been relatively small. From the first Symbian Foundation release, that will change.

The source code will be released under two different licenses. Part will be open source, under the Eclipse Public Licence. This part has no licence fee, and is accessible to everyone. The other part will be community source, under an interim Symbian Foundation Licence. This is also royalty free, but there is a small contract that companies have to sign, and a small annual fee of 1,500 dollars. I expect a large community to take advantage of this.

This interim community source part will diminish, in stages, until it vanishes around the middle of 2010. By then, everything will be open source. We can’t get there quicker because there are 40 million lines of source code altogether, and we need to carry out various checks and cleanups and contract renegotiations first. But we’ll get there as quickly as we can.

There’s one other important difference worth highlighting. It goes back to the theme of reducing fragmentation. Historically, there have been three different UIs for Symbian OS: S60, UIQ, and MOAP(S) used in Japan. But going forwards, there will only be one UI system: S60, which is nowadays flexible enough to support the different kinds of user models for which the other UI systems were initially created.

To be clear, developers don’t have to wait until 2010 before experimenting with this software system. Software written to the current S60 SDK will run fine on these later releases. We’ll continue to make incremental compatible releases throughout this time period.

P.S. To David Wood: I am aware that I have exceeded the quoting limit imposed by Austrian law. However, I have done so in good intent – if it disturbs you, please email me and the post will be removed.

Oct 282008
 

Don’t ask me why – tracking down Symbian Foundation folks at the Symbian Smartphone Show seems to be exceptionally difficult. However, I managed to leave a bunch of questions behind on a sheet of paper – the Symbian Press team forwarded them to Mark Durrant (who seems to be faceless :-) ).

Here’s what he has to say:

What does the Symbian Foundation plan to do in order to restore UIQ developer confidence in the new platform?
The new platform will be a unified and de-fragmented platform built on the most open, proven and successful platform for smartphones. This gives the widest possible target audience for developers; we expect this will be an exciting opportunity for developers.

Will the first release of Symbian Foundation support touch screens?
Yes as it will be based on S60 5th Edition. S60 recently announced S60 5th Edition which includes support for touch. The Nokia 5800 Xpress Music is the first touch device based on that platform.

Does the Symbian Foundation plan to work with small hardware makers selling just 100s of PCs?
The Symbian Foundation will be open for membership to any organization, big or small. The foundation’s platform will be available initially to members on a royalty free basis, for a low membership fee of US$ 1500 per year, which should not be a barrier to companies of any size.

Will the OS be available royalty-free to non members?
Yes, when the Symbian Foundation platform becomes fully open source, which is expected in June 2010.

Why was no UIQ compatibility layer included?
The initial members of the foundation concluded that the priority for compatibility was S60, the predominant UI on Symbian OS. Many UIQ applications also have an S60 version available, so creating a UIQ compatibility layer would not add significant benefit but would add overhead to the platform.

Does the Symbian Foundation plan an app store of its own?
This is something which could be considered but in the spirit of open source, would not be exclusive.

P.S. For legal reasons:
For all of these answers, it should be remembered that the operation of the Symbian Foundation is subject to the acquisition of Symbian Limited by Nokia, in turn subject to customary closing conditions including regulatory approvals.