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.