View Full Version : Yes I know, but they’re just not compatible.


Ewan
04-04-2005, 12:47 PM
With 40 plus phones already available, and another 40 odd due out through 2005, Ewan's a bit worried that Symbian's number of handsets is leaving open an area that might cause problems. Fragmentation of the OS and UI, and confusion in the end- user. Read the rest of the news to find out why...

“Oh no, that application won’t work on that Symbian phone.”
“But it works on the one I have now!”
“Yes I know, but they’re just not compatible.”

If you’ve ever wondered just what might cause Symbian OS (and the various flavours) to not gain market acceptance, it’s the area of inter-operability. Putting aside the top 2% of people with phones (that’ll be people like us then – Rafe), you’re talking to people who’ve grown up in a world of inter-operability, where a program that ran on one Windows (or Mac) machine, runs on any other. Only now are we starting to see applications that are XP/2000 only in the Windows world, and OSX only in the Mac world.

Compare this to the already too-visible problems in the Symbian world and you’ll see that it’s just too complicated. It’s no wonder that “Powered by Symbian OS” isn’t a program that Symbian try to promote, because the four main flavours of Symbian OS (UIQ, Series 60, Series 80 and the FOMA user interfaces) have no way of running programs compiled for devices other than themselves.

Sure, there’s a huge amount of source code inter-operability for the programmer to deal with, but compared to the 25 million plus Symbian OS devices out there, making sure that 200 or so authors realise the difference is nothing compared to the sheer volume of end-users.

At the moment, this is still a theoretical problem, most people don’t realise that Series 60 is Symbian OS, and that “Chucky Egg” on their phone is the same as “Chucky Egg” on their friends P900. As far as they’re concerned, they’re just ports in the same way that Splinter Cell runs on both the Xbox and the Playstation… and the N-Gage.

The N-Gage is a good example of the problems that lie in wait with the jump to Symbian OS 9 (and the resultant jump to Series 60 v3, and UIQ v3). Everybody out there is smart enough to work out that an N-Gage is just a Series 60 phone, much like their Nokia 6600. So there should be nothing stopping that MMC game running my phone apart from Nokia being a bit possessive. There’s no extra circuitry, graphics card or twiddly bits.

Ah but the N-Gage is S60 version 1, and the 6600 is S60 version 2. But most of the games still run (apart from some palette problems) much to nobody’s surprise. The fun stuff of course is the jump to Symbian OS 9, when absolutely everything changes. Programs are going to have to be recompiled, you won’t simply be able to say “Series 60” on a product tag, but which version of Series 60. Given that Nokia don’t have a great big v1, v2 or v3 on the box, you’re probably going to have to list the model of the phone. We’re going to see lists of eighty Symbian phones with a little note that says, “choose your phone” before you discover if the author has cross compiled for your specific model (don’t laugh, it might just end up that way). Virgin Radio’s recently announced Radio Player is for Series 60 v2 and UIQ, and has a very nice (and long) list of compatible phones. Strange how the Nokia 6620 isn’t listed. Now is that because Virgin hasn’t heard of it, it’s not compatible, or they’ve never tested it? After all, they’ve got compatibility with the Arima U300 and that’s not even released yet!

And that’s before we’ve even asked how a lone author can test his application on the multitude of phones for each UI type.

Is it a problem now? That’s one for end-users to ask, but the potential for Symbian and its partners to slip up here is immense. Creating a vibrant third-party software ecosystem is one of the key areas that has made Palm OS such a success (and note that even in the new Linux based OS they’re promising to release “real soon now” it will still run Palm OS 1.0 based applications. Microsoft is moving towards an identical platform for Windows based Pocket PC’s and MS Smartphones. Meanwhile Symbian seems to be slowly fragmenting itself into every market space, with no Rosetta Stone to move between them.

If they’re not careful, this could be the Achilles heel everyone else exploits…

Jobb
04-04-2005, 02:06 PM
Hmmm , I ranted about this a few months back and was poo-pood.

Sorry to say but my lovely Mini-xda is kik ass, never locks up, just about every app ever written for Pocket PC still works on it.
Takes full size!! cards
I hate to admit it but MS are starting to turn the tide,

MkollUK
04-04-2005, 03:50 PM
As evidence of this check out the Symbian section of the Handango site(s) which is a mess with no clear subdivision between types of devices. Although most of the readers of this site can tell the difference between OS's it must be a nightmare for newcomers.

MS are possibly going to come across the same problems if they persist with labelling both Smartphone and PDA OS's as versions of Windows Mobile. They're all going to have problems with varying screen resolutions.

slitchfield
04-04-2005, 07:48 PM
And all this is not even considering the mess/cost developers face in having to get each new 'port' and version of each port Symbian signed....

Back to Ewan's good news post though - many developer web sites already open out to a graphical list of phones and the user clicks on the one they've got. Which is simple enough, even if it's a hassle for the relevant webmaster to maintain. So, in this respect, it's not a problem....

Of course, OPL programs (plug, plug....) don't have the same problems. In theory, the user just installs the right runtime for their platform and then all OPL apps work fine, adapting themselves to the machine being run on. I've just been reviewing Ewan's book and he demonstrates how easy it is to actually do this. In practice, of course, it's often easier for the developer to make separate versions for each device, if only because different graphics and help files may be needed. But generic Symbian OS OPL apps could be done... in theory, as I say.

Every mobile platform has faced these sorts of problems as it has evolved. Things aren't really that much rosier in the Palm OS or Pocket PC camps, once you start dealing with applications that push the envelope...

Mike Edwards
05-04-2005, 11:26 AM
You touched on one of the biggest problems with developing for phones in general - getting test equipment so we can say FOR SURE that it works on 'xx' model of phone. I talked to a few manufacturers at Symbian Expo last year, and while all were sympathetic none were any help. S-E have a program I can join ($500) and then buy a P910 ($665), but I can buy one SIM-free for less than that. After I join their program (whether it's S-E, Nokia or anyone else) as a developer we should be able to buy NFR phones for cut-down prices. Or perhaps borrow them for a short while.

svdwal
05-04-2005, 02:19 PM
You will still have to content with sis files that only install on Series 60, or Series 80, or whatever.

I amtalking about the depency lines like these in .pkg files.

;
;Supports Series 60 v 0.9
;
(0x101F6F88), 0, 0, 0, {"Series60ProductID"}

Devices either do not allow sis files without such lines, or complain about them.

Sander van der Wal
mBrain Software

slitchfield
06-04-2005, 09:09 AM
You will still have to content with sis files that only install on Series 60, or Series 80, or whatever.

I amtalking about the depency lines like these in .pkg files.

;
;Supports Series 60 v 0.9
;
(0x101F6F88), 0, 0, 0, {"Series60ProductID"}

Devices either do not allow sis files without such lines, or complain about them.

Sander van der Wal
mBrain Software

What happens if you include all the product IDs, i.e. you say that your app will work on all platforms? Has anyone tried this?

Steve

svdwal
16-04-2005, 04:35 PM
A dependency lines say that a certain UID must be installed on the device. So if you put all existing dependency lines in the sis file, all these uid must be installed on the device. But that means that the device will support programs for all devices, and that's not true.

The relationship is an AND relation between all dependencies, not an OR relation.

No dependency lines at all would be the way to go, but unfortunalety most devices insist on a dependency line.

Sander van der Wal
mBrain Software

Masamune
13-05-2005, 12:38 PM
Compatability is a sore point for me. Becuase Sendo isn't as well known as either Nokia or Siemens, whenever I talk to a developer about a Sendo version of their app the rsponse is either "Who's Sendo" or more usuallythere are no plans to add the X to our compatible range of phones. One developer tried to blame this on Sendo's OS. Yes, I know that the X uses a rather old Symbian version (6.1) but the developer in question who makes a particular line of Office apps for Series 60, UIQ and Palm, said that the "Sendo Enhancements" were what killed it. As far as I understand, the enhancements were the Now screen and compatability with the sound and graphics chips. Surely this wouldn't change the OS to such a significant extent?

slitchfield
13-05-2005, 01:06 PM
the "Sendo Enhancements" were what killed it. As far as I understand, the enhancements were the Now screen and compatability with the sound and graphics chips. Surely this wouldn't change the OS to such a significant extent?

Indeed. From the developers that I've talked to, it seems that they've simply 'standardized' on Symbian OS 7 and Series 60 v2 and thus choose to not support the Sendo X, the Nokia 7650, 3650, etc. Great shame, they're missing out on millions of customers...

Sendo need to take note of this though - if their X2 doesn't work with many of the biggest Series 60 apps, it'll be Sendo's name that gets slandered even if we know that it's not strictly them to blame.

Steve

Masamune
13-05-2005, 04:00 PM
Indeed. From the developers that I've talked to, it seems that they've simply 'standardized' on Symbian OS 7 and Series 60 v2 and thus choose to not support the Sendo X, the Nokia 7650, 3650, etc. Great shame, they're missing out on millions of customers...

Sendo need to take note of this though - if their X2 doesn't work with many of the biggest Series 60 apps, it'll be Sendo's name that gets slandered even if we know that it's not strictly them to blame.

Steve

Tell me about it - I was looking towards getting the X2. I will probably still get one but with the existing OS, it will be quite restrictive, especially given that as time moves on, OS 6 apps will be phased out altogether as OS 9 makes an appearence.

Rafe
13-05-2005, 04:38 PM
Its a very interesting this one this. A lot of users never install programs to their phones so it difficult to judge the impact. I do agree than a Sendo with a more recent version of Series 60 would be nice, but given the market I think they are going after I don't think it's that big a deal (it just annoys people like us)...

I suspect the next X series phone from Sendo will probably be Series 60 2.0, but don't hold me to that!

Masamune
14-05-2005, 10:49 PM
Its a very interesting this one this. A lot of users never install programs to their phones so it difficult to judge the impact. I do agree than a Sendo with a more recent version of Series 60 would be nice, but given the market I think they are going after I don't think it's that big a deal (it just annoys people like us)...



This is a very good point about Series 60 in general - has there ever been any serious market research into just how effectively people are using their Series 60 phones? For example, I see lots and lots of people near where I live with the 7610 (more in the cream colour - I personally prefer that version) but when I quizzed a friend of mine about what apps he installed on his Nokia, he thought I was only talking about Java games - he didn't realise that it could be used as a PDA as well.

This is a dilema for phone manufacturers - why not simply abandon Series 60 altogether and use their own proprietry OS and save on paying Symbian license fees? I don't want this to happen by any means, but if people are only using their phones for basic purposes, it does make sense...



On an earlier note, the idea of having a seperate run environment (such as OPL featuring the excellent Puzznic, er, Vexed) is a good idea - MGS have a similar set up for their 3D engine. The only drawback is that running both a runtime environment and the app that's using it needs quite a lot of RAM. For an e.g., I needed to take some screenshots of MGS Mad Macs for something I'm working on but there wasn't enough RAM to run the MGS engine, Mad Macs and the PsiLoc screen capture app all at the same time...

Steve, could check your PM please?