29 September 2010

Nokia Dealer Night 2010 Experience

I'm a software developer, been that for a long time. So when I got an invitation to "Nokia Dealer Night 2010", I didn't even think about it. Nokia means software to me, even thought I've heard rumors they might make some hardware, too. That's ok, been using Nokia devices for a long time. Latest and greatest Nokia N8 is an exceptionally fine device for software development.

You can imagine my surprise, when I got on the event location.

Didn't recognize any faces on queue, not even the types of persons. First of all, people were dressed in strange ways: no over expensive business suits nor "just out from basement" garments. Then there were far too many women. Never seen that many female software developers, even when counting all together. Didn't recognize what people were talking about, didn't really get the jokes. Still there was lots of Nokia banners, so obviously I was in the right place. Lots of Nokia N8 everywhere.

Nokia Dealer Night is a get-together for people who sell Nokia mobile phones and accessories. It's a training session, expo, party and team spirit raising event for those hard working women and men who are on the frontline on field, actually meeting those troublesome customers day in and day out. These are the people who sell all the devices for which we software developers write software for.

Why did a software person receive invitation for hardware event?

There was a short "business seminar" before the main event, for business seminar participants. Presentations about success stories on Nokia devices, available services, sharing experiences and showing demos. That's what I was invited for, but unfortunately the last confirmation email I received didn't mention B2B seminar - and so I missed it!

Not complaining at all, Nokia Dealer Night was a very useful reality check. Got to meet people I'd never meet otherwise, learned what kind of issues are important for them, got to see how Nokia markets hardware for hardware people, got to see how Nokia markets software for hardware people. There was about 20 demo spots crowded with people - most were about software. OVI Store in general, several Nokia services, games running on N8 (Angry Birds is everybody's favorite), Yle Areena (web TV service), mapping services, wine guide etc. Was happy to meet a few fellow developers, too.

What I liked best?

Main speaker didn't shout "Developers, developers, developers", but "when you sell a device, sell a service too"! Got a warm feeling that Nokia really does care about software developers. It's not just the recent Ovi Store announcements (individuals as Ovi Publishers, free signing), but they are also asking hardware sellers to push software, too! That's thousands of new market points!

10 June 2010

Apple to Control Them All - Please!

Most thrilling reading at The Motley Fool: Say Goodbye to the Mac You Know, makes perfect sense. The latest Apple operating system - renamed as iOS - for iPod, iPhone and iPod Touch can later be used with next generation iMacs and MacBooks, too.

Looking at Apple history there is a clear track record for Apple to stand out and above the competition with hardware. Using Intel processors for a while gave advantage to Apple: more robust development tools and knowledge, lower cost hardware manufacturing, easier to attract new users with Windows compatibility.

Switching to Apple's own A4 processor will return full control to Apple. This time Apple had time and money to create their own (better) system, while everyone else was trying to catch up with Apple's usability experience.

Future might be WebKit, JavaScript and some version of HTML5. However bigger impact will be possibility to use familiar iPhone applications in your iMac, too! Why stop at iPad and iPhone "Retina Display"? Screen is a screen is a screen, be it any size at all!

Apple has users, Apple has developers, Apple has markets. Who cares about Windows on desktop, who cares about Symbian or Android on mobile: it's all about users and applications!

07 August 2009

Google Controls Nokia

Google just bought On2, international company developing multimedia codecs. On2 bought 2007 a Finnish company called Hantro, which has been delivering hardware and software video codecs for Nokia for years (here, here and here).

Yep, Google now owns an important piece of Nokia platform.

Officially On2 codecs will be used to make Android platform better - but isn't it a nice coincidence to get control over Nokia at the same time. Now Google knows all about Nokia multimedia hardware and software architecture, problems and solutions - not to mention roadmap for the forthcoming years.

What a "lucky break" for Android, Google owned and controlled mobile device platform seriously competing with Symbian OS (used mostly by Nokia). It's going to take Nokia a few years to get out of this situation. Fortunately there are several H.264 video codec chip manufacturers.

Congratulations! Someone has actually earned all the bonuses (s)he's going to get.

06 July 2009

Apple iPhone Retrospective

Device manufacturers and mobile phone operators have run their own Walled Garden” stores for a decade. They were satisfied, to have an effective and controlled way to stand apart of the tough competition. Nokia device was something else than Vodafone or Orange device, regardless of using the same hardware. The competition was fierce, all means were taken into use.

Hardware manufacturers (OEMs) tried everything: released dozens of color variations, different form factors, even allowed customizing sounds and wallpapers – as long as they were bought from operator's own store. They released feature-packed “killer devices” and ultra-low-cost devices for emerging markets. Something for everybody. There were even system firmware updates to fix defects – for free! It was all about serving the customers. Customers just weren't happy, but nobody could exactly tell what was the problem. There were millions of problems, each different for millions of people.

Apple knew nothing about mobile phone business or how to serve the difficult mobile phone customers. They were world leading experts in serving small niche markets, where User Experience was more important than price. Markets where usability, look and feel, user delight were key aspects. Maybe that's why Apple succeeded where OEMs failed: serving the customer. They came into mobile phone business from outside, with a view from outside. Apple offered something completely different.

First Apple iPhone was technically a mediocre device compared to smartphones from any traditional OEM. Not enough memory, too slow, camera worth joking, just a single akward hardware form factor, poor connectivity, running only a single application at a time – and worst of all – hooked up into iTunes desktop application. It just didn't offer everything for everyone, it was targeted to niche markets. Nothing to take seriously, OEMs might have thought.

There were customers even before iPhone release. Millions of users were registered in iTunes, familiar with buying music pieces online. They jumped happily to the new device as a better music player. Price was pretty high, but you got Cover Flow UI, animated 3D user interface, which was familiar from existing iPod music players and Apple desktop machines. It was something uber-cool in a mobile device. Very thin and stylish hardware design didn't hurt either.

Everything changed with Apple AppStore. People had a cool music player, which was suddenly able to run applications. People who were familiar with buying music online, would now buy software. Everything just clicked together: cool design, simple to use, millions of existing users, familiar market place, ease of purchase, reasonable terms for 3rd party developers, Apple marketing machine. Mobile world turned around.

iPhone OS (March 2009) and App Store Metrics (July 2009) are nothing but awesome:
  • Available in 80 countries around the globe
  • iPhone OS devices 30 millions sold
  • SDK downloads 800 000
  • Registered developers 50000
  • Available applications 55000
  • Active publishers 14000
  • Submissions per day 139
  • Total 1000 million downloads
What about old traditional OEMs, what are they doing? How about operators, don't they want a share? One billions times of “current average overall price” of 2.60 USD equals 2.6 billion USD business. And it's growing.

Nokia set-up their own market-place, called Ovi Store. Analytics and experts agree that it's great, but users are difficult again and complain about many things. O2 set up their own semi-public software testing area, called O2 Litmus. It looks good, but smells like another walled garden. Palm Pre has sold 300000 devices, which have downloaded one million WebOS applications - from a selection of few dozen candidates. Palm Pre SDK is still not public. China Mobile, with 480 million customers, is opening their own application store. China might have more users than anyone else, but it is also very big in software piracy. Why waste good money, when you can get software for free (I've heard said). Google's Android Market also looks like the Next Big Thing, but will that be compatible with the rumoured 20+ devices to be released this year. There are already rumour it won't be 100% compatible.

Apple has total control on the whole chain: hardware, operating system, SDK, marketplace, invoicing. Apple has total control of mobile device developers – and they love it. Apple has it all and users love it.

25 June 2009

Have Windows Mobile, Use Android

Do you have Samsung Omnia, pretty nice touch screen mobile phone running Windows Mobile 6.1? Want to upgrade? For Free? Without risk?

Group of experienced experts have managed to dual boot Samsung Omnia with Android OS, from a memory card! They are getting closer to real port, but the results are impressive already:
  • Boots up from SD memory card
  • Android OS kernel is loaded
  • Clock works on home screen
  • Touch screen support
True, you cannot make a phone call, use camera or any Android application - but it's a great start from a small group of freetime volunteers! Follow Andromnia for progress - and look for bargain Omnia devices (i900, i908, i910)!

[MobileCrunch via Patrick Soon via Android Community]

22 May 2009

Make Your Own Mobile Phone (Really)

Looking for a new mobile phone, can't find anything you like? How about a Real Dream Phone, with all the important features, none of the useless ones, the way you want it? You really want that? I mean really REALLY want?

FLOW DIY kit is a do-it-yourself mobile phone! You can choose GPS, GSM, GPRS, 3.5G, WiFi, Bluetooth, USB, Accelerometers, touch screen, extra LCD displays, battery size, normal or Qwerty keyboard, covers. You can even leave the phone away and just do a custom PDA! Size like 69mm x 116.7mm x 13.7mm doesn't sound bad at all.

Based on Gumstix platform, completely modular and customizable. Comes with open source hardware design and a community support. Great for those who actually can do things by themselves and want to have something very special.

Mix this with open source mobile phone platform, like Android (now) or Symbian OS (hopefully later), and you're ready, set and go with an amazing mix: custom hardware with OS compatible with applications written for more boring phones! Want one!

[Gizmo For You via Engadget via Androinica]

19 May 2009

Maemo Harmattan 2010

MobileCrunch has couple interesting articles about rumoured Maemo 6 Harmattan, even with possible early screenshot. Wouldn't be surprised, if that screenshot is actually Maemo 5.

Difficult to see what new they report when compared to Maemo 5 Fremantly, rumoured to be released Real Soon Now (TM) (my preview here). Fremantle already has:
  • Internet tablet, vertical or horizontal scrolling touch screen
  • Home screen widgets, with our without ads
  • Qt 4.5 support, with the native Hildon UI compatibility
To make things exciting Maemo 6 Harmattan could have oFono, open source telephony platform, to enable making telephone calls. It could also run on some near future low-power Intel chips. Timetables seem to be in sync.

Interesting to see what happens, when someone releases internet tablet running Symbian OS. Most likely that someone would not be Nokia.

08 May 2009

Nokia Developer Summit 2009 Offsite

Nokia Developer Summit 2009 was held at Monaco, 28-29 April. I wasn't able to join, but still wanted to know what's going on. With today's technology, it was actually both easy and a pleasure.

First news came realtime via twitter hashtag search #nds09. Several reporters, occasionally even in different sessions, offered good selection of facts, opinions and background info. Thanx to at least @mobilejam @smashpop @AAS @bryanrieger @gloom303 @rayval @inti @mobiliser @henriquemartin onsite, as well as several offsite commenters.

Next there's some more or less realtime blogs, most notably Nokia Conversations and the official event website. They do have an advantage, having access to restricted insider info, and did a splendid job. The official website is most likely the best ever after-event site I've seen. Take a look, if you're interested in getting into the feeling of almost being there!

Talking about blogs, have to mention the old reliable All About Symbian. They might not be the fastest, but provide thoughtful, insightful analysis worth following. Podcast AAS Insight #69 contains NDS summary starting at 21+ minutes. Also Qt-based Orbit UI supersedes S60 AVKON in Symbian^4 article is an excellent overview of the future of Symbian platform. Check the comments, too.

Another interesting blog this year was Forum Nokia Blogs, where FN Champions were requested to blog from the event. Personal touch was a nice addition, great idea!

I'm not a fan of real-time video, with all the background noise, people walking by and coughing and seeing too many talking heads almost in focus. Talking backs of the heads are even worse, can't even try to read from the lips! These videos by Nokia Conversations are something else: professionally edited, short and to the point, with excellent picture and sound quality.

Main news from my offsite view, mainly via twitter (my comments inside parenthesis):
  • It's not resolved yet how to get flash apps into Ovi Store (but I'm sure they will get in there)
  • Forum Nokia delivers resources to 4+ million registered developers, website receives more than 1.5 million unique visitors per month. (Personally I've always "wondered" about that 4 million registered users, but 1.5 million "unique visitors" is an impressive number.)
  • WRT is an abstraction layer. (Nokia keeps pushing WRT so hard, guess it will become a serious development platform)
  • Ovi Store accepts only certified apps: Symbian Signed or Java Verified. (Flash is a bit open, hopefully Flash solution could be reused with python apps.)
  • Finally a form of Map API will be available from Nokia (with restrictions and only for selected partners, but finally it's available)
  • Developer focused twitter feed from Symbian Foundation @symbiandevco (great to see they embrase latest tech)
  • QT Orbit announcement via Twitter, to replace AVKON. (Major major news. Truly surprised how little analysis there has been about this. Too big to understand or devs are just too skeptic)
  • Application suite re-factored and re-written to take advantage of Qt APIs, Orbit widgets, and Direct UI. (This means S60 will fallback one year vs competition. Can they use the option to their advantage?)
  • Maemo 5 Beta SDK was released around this time (there is a future for Maemo)
Wondering whether expos will become like big sports events: want to be there onsite, but will have no idea what's happening. Calling offsite friends to ask where to go, what to see.

07 May 2009

JOM PyS60: 12 months, 22 apps, 45000 pageviews

What can you do with PyS60, the python programming language for Nokia S60 mobile phones? Software, of course! Lots of software, quickly, experimenting and having fun.

Last autumn I had the pleasure to be selected as Forum Nokia Champion, mostly due my engagement with PyS60. This is a report of the last amazing 12 months. If anyone objects shameless self-promotion, please skip the rest. I'm just so happy with the results of using PyS60, that I wanted to share this story.

I've done Symbian C++ for years, survived and never liked it. There was an odd addiction, have to admit that. Getting deep inside Symbian development, focusing 110% for hours and being able to solve complex issues does feel very satisfying. However it never felt very productive. But C++ coding was years ago, maybe things are different now.

Tried Java ME, but run immediately into fragmentation issues. Each line of code seemed to require few more "just in case", no pleasure at all.

Late 2006 PyS60 seemed like a toy programming language. Nice idea, but just didn't have enough anything to be taken seriously. 2008 I tried again. Didn't have much time, didn't want to use too much energy, just a quick look. Surprisingly PyS60 had developed quite nicely and it was possible to write sensor enabled software. PyS60 wasn't only "just another programming language" on par with everything else. It additionally offered access to accelerometer data with just a few simple lines of code!

March 27, 2008, I created my own website for releasing mobile software written with PyS60. From Day One I have been following Google Analytics statistics (free). Can't help it. I cannot write any software and NOT release it. Likewise I cannot create a website and NOT follow what happens with it. No big plans, it's just a way I'm internally wired. Fortunately it turned out to be interesting.

During last (about) 12 months I wrote and released (about) 22 applications written with PyS60. My website has received (about) 45000 pageviews by (about) 16000 absolute unique visitors. They look at average 2.32 average pages using 1:35 minutes on site. Says Google Analytics, can't argue with them.


Never thought PyS60 software would be able to achieve that! Additionally during last one (1) week, I got 2700 pageviews by 1200 visitors, which projects into 11000 views by 5000 visitors for on-going months. Not too bad, considering each and every user has to find, download and install PyS60 runtime before they can use any of those apps. Hope they do. Wonder what the numbers would be for standard Symbian C++ software, much bigger no doubt! But this is python.

What is the future of PyS60? Since it's absolutely beginner friendly while still powerful, one would hope there is some future.

PyS60 1.9.x project is going on and progressing nicely. There are some issues with releases, but it's acceptable for work in progress. Just happy that Nokia Python team has the courage and foresight to make public sprint releases. The much expected PyS60 2.0 will be great, I'm sure about that:

Based on python 2.5.4 core with most of the standard libraries, support for Sensor Framework, support for Touch UI, graphical application packager, support for Platform Service API, some support for development on linux and Mac etc.

Just one request: would you please try to keep same UID, not change it for each and every release unless absolutely necessary?

Does PyS60 have any commercial future? Currently it seems that Nokia Ovi Store accepts only Symbian C++, Java ME and some Flash content. No news about PyS60. Well, as long as PyS60 remains fun to use and more productive than alternatives, I'll remain a happy coder. Wouldn't mind getting serious with Nokia Ovi Store, but that's a business decision out of my reach.


--jouni nighttime and weekend coder


Want to know what those 16000 visitors came to see? Here you are:

PS. Initially released at Forum Nokia Blogs

04 May 2009

Symbian OS Fragmentation Has Started

There are two recent phone specific SDK releases: Nokia N97 SDK and Samsung i8910 HD SDK (aka Omnia HD). While it's good to see quick SDK releases and updates, this can be the start of Symbian OS fragmentation.

Nokia N97 SDK release note is reassuring, making it look like their SDK add-on is pretty backwards, forwards and device compatible. Wouldn't expect anything less, considering Nokia used to own S60 platform. However Samsung release note especially says:
NaviSensor provides an alternative to the S60 5.0 Sensor Framework API.
The very first non-Nokia S60 SDK extension is fragmenting the Symbian OS platform. Even thought Samsung i8910 is a delicious device, I think this is the beginning of a troublesome developer friendship (walking into fog).