View Full Version : Just how many third party applications do you need?


slitchfield
09-11-2006, 01:29 PM
Steve Litchfield responds to criticism that the relatively low numbers of third party applications in the Symbian OS world is a weakness and points out that most people simply don't need an extra 1000 titles...

Read on in the full article (http://www.allaboutsymbian.com/news/item/4519_Just_how_many_third_party_appl.php).

tomsky
09-11-2006, 02:48 PM
Or to put it another way: How many of the new applications on the right of the home screen of AAS are you really interested in?
It does seem to me that the plethora of duplicate applications, each with a different, critical feature missing is not a "good thing".

Tom

martinharnevie
09-11-2006, 03:30 PM
The built-in applications, in a strict feature-by-feature comparison, are weaker today than what they were pre-Nokia 9210 (v6). However, in another sense, they have become more useful because they are combined with powerful wireless communication options.

But what has really changed since the era that Steve's talking about is the loss of the topic matter specialists. The Symbian 3rd party application scene today is totally dominated by the programming specialists. That's fine in a sense; we can access an array of wonderful games and utilities.

But you just have to take a look back at Martin Guthrie's "Lost & Found" pages or Steve's old 3-lib library to see what we're really missing today; the specialist applications.

I think Steve's right in many ways, but there is one thing he says which I totally disagree with. The users of the era he's referring to were generally not "geeks". Perhaps he and I were. But at large, they were professionals who used those specialist applications in their professions and hobbies. And they still are.

The tool that enabled the topic matter specialists to contribute to the plethora of 3rd party applications can be written in three letters; O P L. None of the tools available post-v7 (whether it's Python, Java or VB) is as easily accessible, attractive and usable as OPL was.

If you couldn't find your RF-calculator, Z-Score or your preferred DCF model on the 3-lib list or any other similar list, you could easily and instantly jazz one up.

That's what we're really missing today. Not zillions of 3rd party applications.

slitchfield
09-11-2006, 03:48 PM
I quite agree about OPL, Martin, as you know. And I too despair every day that this jewel of the Symbian world hasn't been allowed the resources to stay compatible with current OS versions....

As you say, the nice thing about OPL was that the apps thus created could be as specific as you needed them to be. Python kind of fills the gap, but it's still a lot more complicated for newcomers.

Re: professional users. By today's standards they'd be geeks though - show me one mid-1990s user who didn't spend an hour or two a week installing apps, fiddling with settings and generally fondling their clamshell mechanism....

Or maybe that was just me.... 8-)

Steve

martinharnevie
09-11-2006, 03:55 PM
>>show me one mid-1990s user who didn't spend an hour or two a week installing apps, fiddling with settings and generally fondling their clamshell mechanism...<<
Yes you're right! I did too. In fact I still did today.... haha.... trying to enter Friis' radio path loss formula in that buggy v0.54 OPL editor for UIQ2....albeit P900 is not strictly clamshell, but enough to fiddle with....

Bassey
09-11-2006, 04:30 PM
I agree with most of what you say. Quality is MORE important than quantity, but that doesn't mean quantity is unimportant. Competition drives innovation and there has been a general lack of innovation in the last two years within the Symbian development community, largely, in my opinion, because everyone is spending too much time porting their apps to yet another version of the OS rather than developing the codebase they have.

One question I have and one to which, frankly, I have no answer, is this. Microsoft has about 80% market share in the desktop computer OS market. It has been widely criticised and, indeed, prosecuted and had sanctions put in place, for leveraging it's dominance of that market by suplpying all sorts of software built-in to the OS. For years people have complained that IE and MediaPlayer are completely dominant not because they are good, but because they are unavoidable. The same furore looks likely to ignite again with the inclusion of anti-virus and anti-spyware software within Vista.

Symbian (specifically Series 60) has a similar dominance of the smartphone OS market. It integrates it's browser, it's photo viewer and real video player (amongst others) into each handset sold. The result, as you say, is that most people have no need or, indeed, inclination to look for other alternatives. Presumably this is at least partly responsible for the lack of 3rd party development and the lack of innovation in the Symbian software market.

Is there a difference between this and the Microsoft situation and, if not, is it a problem?

As I say, I don't have an answer but I find the situation interesting.

Jack B Nimble
09-11-2006, 06:11 PM
I agree that I don't need thousands of apps, but thousands sure makes it more likely that the two or three I do need are actually available. I considered Symbian because my two of my main apps, iSilo and eReader, both support Symbian. Unfortunately, neither plans to support the latest version of Symbian. At least with iSilo, where most of the files can be recreated with another offline browser, I might consider switching, but Plucker, the only alternative with good tools, is not available either.

Yes, Mobipocket is available, but I cannot convert the books I already own, and the tools are not very good for an offline browser.

I do agree that the vast majority of apps are not useful. When you look at what is useful to a particular individual, the number of useful apps gets even smaller. Quality is also important. Still, when I looked at buying a Symbian knowing I want an ebook reader, and there was really only one reader available, it made me halt my purchase. I have put off updating my phone for now. If I like what I see in the next six months or so, Symbian may get back on my list. Otherwise, I'll end up sticking to my dumbphone/PDA combo.

luarvique
09-11-2006, 06:44 PM
Forget about MobiPocket: I have not been able to understand the purpose of this application myself. Apparently it is supposed to lock users into MobiPocket's proprietary ebook format, but how many people are that stupid?

Anyway, try qReader here:

http://www.my-symbian.com/s60v3/software/applications.php?fldAuto=52&faq=12

It is free, supports plain text, and has no strings attached

slitchfield
09-11-2006, 07:03 PM
One of the points of Mobipocket is being able to take a local set of pages with internal hyperlinks and build them into a single hypertext document - bit like iSilo but for (mainly) local content.

I used it, for example, in building my (fairly famous) Trivopaedia - http://3lib.ukonline.co.uk/trivopaedia.htm

luarvique
09-11-2006, 07:27 PM
Isn't it easier to have a local set of web pages? Or was impossible to browse plain HTML on an S80 device?

euroclie
09-11-2006, 08:55 PM
Hi Steve,

I'm glad (and proud) that you noticed my humble rant about the E61...

In Patrick's piece, reviewing six months with the Nokia E61, he first quotes silly numbers of third party applications, such as 'only 575', implying that this is considered laughably low. Er... I consider myself a power user of the E61, E70, P990i or N93, or whatever I happen to be trialling that month, and (games aside) I've only found a need for 3 or 4 third party applications at most. '575' sounds plenty to me...Come on, Steve, you're smarter than this! Don't pretend you're not getting my point here... I'd never install or use 575 separate applications on my smartphone, that's for sure.

I only need a couple of them (at the moment, I have about twenty apps installed), the trick is that it can get a bit difficult to sort the "fits my needs" vs. "doesn't fit my needs" ones. If you're lucky enough to find apps that suits you within this 575 ones, great. As for me, I wasn't. If you look at my blog you'll find another rant about memopad & calendar applications, and the sad truth (sad for me, that is) is that there's no alternative to the builtin Notes application at the moment for the E61, and the two serious alternatives to Calendar do not fit my needs either.

So yes, at the moment, I say again that the comparatively lower number of available applications means less choice for the end user (not less installed programs at a given time). And I'm surprised by the tone of your post, as you were, not so long ago, complaining about the poor sales figures of third party applications in a bright article on AAS: http://www.allaboutsymbian.com/features/item/Survival_of_the_killer_apps.php

And now, you say that there are enough application already, and that end-users should be satisfied with just that? Uh? Given that you rightly write that a great many of them are themes, ringtones or java applets that were not specifically designed to support E61, that simply means that the number of potentially useful (in the "killer app" sense) apps is much lower than the figures I quoted, regardless of the platform.

comments like "So here I am, with a nice E61 but no adequate software on it" are melodramatic to say the least. I guess Patrick's using the decade-old definition of the software set that makes a handheld 'adequate', but back in 2006, I'd like to suggest that this definition is out of date.Hmm... again, I didn't imply anything else than the fact that I have yet to find a calendar and a memopad application that fit my particular needs. Such applications exist on the WM5 platform (but I dislike the OS for other reasons) and for PalmOS (which runs on technically outdated hardware), so I don't consider this requirement to be melodramatic. I certainly do not expect the E61 to be shipped with all the bells and whistles of modern (or antique) software, whatever that means to you, I just expect a 2006 smartphone to be able to run a customizable calendar application and a decent memopad application. And possibly a builtin find function as well, but I see that Nokia has started to work on this matter, at least! ;)

Don't get me wrong, there are some very good third party apps out there for the E61, but I don't expect their number to reach the same as other paltforms or OS versions, though I'd be happily proven wrong if possible!

slitchfield
09-11-2006, 10:44 PM
>>Don't pretend you're not getting my point here... I'd never install or use 575 separate applications on my smartphone, that's for sure.

But my point is that raw numbers mean nothing - it's the quality of the (say) top 30 or 40 which matter and which provide the pool for people to draw from.

>>And I'm surprised by the tone of your post, as you were, not so long ago, complaining about the poor sales figures of third party applications in a bright article on AAS: http://www.allaboutsymbian.com/featu...iller_apps.php

That article was *explaining* the poor sales, not complaining, other than about people's honesty these days....

8-)

lithgow
10-11-2006, 12:24 AM
Things are certainly different on smartphones (inc. the E91 -- I personally use the P990 because S60's UI bandwidth is still just too narrow) than they were on the Psions.

However, I would say that S60 Contacts is borderline unusable (very poor layout of the details view is the main culprit). Calendar is a bit of a joke, compared to EPOC's Agenda. And the office applications don't support styles or macros, both of which worked on ER5 (the former was built in, the latter required a third-party app, but worked a charm).

On the other hand, the web browsers on the new devices are vastly superior, their email applications are truly usable, and their multimedia features are extraordinary.

But when even David Wood points out the lack of focus on PIM, I think it's pretty obvious that the S60 and UIQ guys have taken their eye off that ball.

Still, that's what DreamSpring's for. ;)

slitchfield
10-11-2006, 09:07 AM
>>And the office applications don't support styles

Of course they do. The E61 and the E70 have the S60 office suite (based on the Psion/EPOC code) and 'Format | Style' works as well as ever it did on the Psion.....

Steve

Ewan
10-11-2006, 12:13 PM
However, I would say that S60 Contacts is borderline unusable (very poor layout of the details view is the main culprit). Calendar is a bit of a joke, compared to EPOC's Agenda. And the office applications don't support styles or macros, both of which worked on ER5 (the former was built in, the latter required a third-party app, but worked a charm).... But when even David Wood points out the lack of focus on PIM, I think it's pretty obvious that the S60 and UIQ guys have taken their eye off that ball.



I find it telling that David Wood, to this day, still carries a Psion Series 5mx with him in his jacket pocket to maintain his Agenda/Diary.

martinharnevie
11-11-2006, 06:10 AM
I find it telling that David Wood, to this day, still carries a Psion Series 5mx with him in his jacket pocket to maintain his Agenda/Diary.
I do too. And I just ordered a new one from www.posltd.com..... so I can send the older ones in for repair. These days I only use:
- Agenda/BusyView
- Word/Jotter/Editor (mainly whenever I get a new idea and want to capture it instantly before I forget it; and for taking meeting notes without having to power up the bulky laptop)
- Data (as a master database for all Contacts, currently with 4000 entries)
- Data-->Contacts+Contacts (for conversion to vCard files for upload to SE P900....and now also my wife's P990)
- plBeam
- dp59 (a homemade Texas Instruments TI59 emulator, never released coz no-one else would be interested)
- OPL (whenever I want to jazz up something quickly)
- Macro5 (well, you gotta be a Psion phreak to understand the value of this one....)
- Spell with built in Thesaurus
Well, phreak or not, the hardware itself might be a hopeless contraption of stone-age technology, but where else do I find this set of applications always with me for instant use with a 10 finger keyboard? Nowhere.

buster
11-11-2006, 04:04 PM
One thing that hasn't been mentioned is the almost total lack of freeware for Symbian devices, especially when compared to what was available for Psions.

Many applications are only available without a trial; unless I had read extremely good things about such an application, I would never consider buying it.

I think that the release of Symbian v. 9 is only going to make things more difficult. OPL has not (yet) been ported, in fact it only just works under Symbian v. 7, and the requirement that all (or most) software be Symbian Signed is not going to help smaller developers. Also, the fact the it's not possible to use ie. UIQ2 apps on a UIQ3 device causes problems for both developers and users, and probably puts many users off upgrading; those that do may well consider changing platforms....

Ian

luarvique
11-11-2006, 06:33 PM
Many applications are only available without a trial; unless I had read extremely good things about such an application, I would never consider buying it.
It may sound counterintuitive, but I have found that more people buy application when trial version is not available. My guess is that it is an impulse thing and the ability to get a trial version lets the user think it over. Another possibility is that a lot of users may wait for the trial version to get cracked.

martinharnevie
12-11-2006, 03:01 AM
I also has to do with the lifecycle, or rather use-cycle, of the device. I bought my first Psion S5 just when it came out. It was a long term investment. Not so much for the money, but for the investment in time spent on learning to use it optimally. Then came 5mx and netBooks and I recently picked up another 5mx for 16 quid at a pawnbroker in Kelana Jaya, outside of Kuala Lumpur. It's coming to a 10 year love affair now... With this type of usage cycle, it makes sense to evaluate 3rd party applications as well as invest the time to develop some of your own.

Now, let's jump forward to Symbian phones. How long is the average use cycle for a phone? 1 year? 2 years? What is the point of investing in a shipload of applications, when you know that within a year or so, you're going for the next model? And more often than not the new model is not backwards compatible (or the application registration is IMEI-locked) so you're facing a hazzle moving your stuff anyway.

And on a slightly different part of the topic: I'm not kidding, the amount of time I've saved by maintaining Psion's Data as my main Contacts base and convert to vCard whenever I wish to populate a new phone can be measured in months.

luarvique
12-11-2006, 06:52 AM
Now, let's jump forward to Symbian phones. How long is the average use cycle for a phone? 1 year? 2 years? What is the point of investing in a shipload of applications, when you know that within a year or so, you're going for the next model?
True. I have been talking about Windows applications rather than Symbian ones though. I have yet to try selling a Symbian app without a demo. It is somewhat scary given how many different devices are out there and how many incompatibilities may spring up. With a demo, the user at least has a chance to test the app on his device.

And more often than not the new model is not backwards compatible (or the application registration is IMEI-locked) so you're facing a hazzle moving your stuff anyway.
Ironically, the IMEI-locks should become less popular among developers with Symbian9 preventing them from reading IMEI. The developers may still use IMEIs but store them inside individually encoded installation files. In other words, the app should work between phones.