New Symbian (and Meego) applications not allowed in the Nokia Store from Jan 1st

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We knew this day would come, but didn't think it would happen so soon. After January 1st, 2014, Nokia is no longer accepting either new applications or updates for existing apps into the Nokia Store. The email, sent out to all developers today, is quoted below, but my first impression is that the refusal to allow app updates is something of a contravention of Nokia's stated intent to "support Symbian until 2016". After all, without the facility to update apps to maintain compatibility with the wider world and to respond to security issues and bugs, the Symbian ecosystem is rather left in the lurch.

Here's the email sent out today:

Dear Nokia Developer,

With the growing business opportunities available on the Asha and Windows Phone platforms, we have been reviewing our developer content programs to see how we can maximize our support to you, our developers. As a result of this review, we have decided to focus our support and investment in new content toward Asha and Windows Phone. Over the next few months we will be transitioning our active developer support away from Symbian and MeeGo.

If you have Symbian and MeeGo content in the Nokia Store, it will continue to be available for download to customers, and you will continue to receive download and revenue reports as well as payouts for downloaded content. However, starting January 1, 2014, you will no longer be able to publish any new content or update existing content for Symbian and MeeGo.

We are very excited about the opportunities available with Asha and Windows Phone, and hope that you will bring your talents to these platforms. We believe that these changes will help improve our ability to support you as you develop fantastic apps for your customers.

Nokia may well be 'very excited', but I think 'very disappointed' is going to better reflect the mood of the many tens of millions of very active Symbian users and the remaining Symbian developers. The possibility for not seeing new applications after January 1st is perhaps not that much of an issue, since genuinely new applications of any substance have been rare over the last few months, but the cessation of accepting updates will almost completely kill the active use of Symbian smartphones for some people. After all, if you can't rely on developers responding to Internet service API changes (think Facebook, YouTube, etc.) or to address security issues, then surely the platform's effectively dead?

We've reached out to Nokia and will let you know if it responds.

[I've cross-posted this to All About Meego as well, because the same email applies to that ecosystem, though of course it's a hundred times smaller in terms of active users]

The future?

Assuming that Nokia doesn't relent and change its mind about accepting updates (which seems unlikely given the impending new ownership and the gradual move away from Symbian experience and expertise at the company), then the active Symbian community, however vestigial it ends up being/feeling, may well have to think again about how software is discovered and distributed.

We're already seeing many developers putting up their freeware Symbian applications on their own web sites, for direct download (i.e. of SIS files), and this trend can only continue. Although this system works well enough, it does mean a lot of work for users in terms of discovery, which is why I started up my own application and games directory pages some months ago. I suspect that others may well produce lists along the same lines.

The situation for commercial software is, of course, more complicated. The altruist in me says that (especially at this stage in Symbian's life) developers should simply make their work freeware after January 1st, making it not necessary for users to have to jump through PayPal/GetJar (etc.) hoops to buy the latest version of their applications. Hopefully many developers will indeed do this - after all, most active Symbian users who were going to by their apps will probably already have done so? For the remaining developers, they'll have to put up with remaining income from the Nokia Store, albeit from potentially older versions of their applications, plus whatever they can scrape together from sales from independent app stores/pages.

Actions for AAS?

We've mentioned several times on the Insight podcast that we've been stockpiling SIS files/installers from the Symbian world for a while. Now, the Nokia Store's still going to exist for a while yet, of course, and the changes just mentioned will hopefully mean that SIS installers and updates will be still be fairly readily available from various sources. But long term, it may well fall to AAS (or my own 3-Lib site, or some other third party) to act as a central clearing house for developer page links, latest versions, and so on. 

Perhaps it's possible through sheer outcry and comments (e.g. on this story, and also on sites like Nokia Discussions) that Nokia may relent and assign Accenture (or similar) some budget for administrating application updates in 2014 and beyond? Here's hoping.