The WDN Symbian DevZone... Developer Profile - Bitween (www.bitween.com)
by Richard Bloor, November 11, 2002
Italian developer Bitween has been active lately releasing a number of games for
the 9200 Communicator and Nokia 7650. Richard finds out more about the
company and the challenges they have had in developing for the Symbian OS in
conversation with Director Roberto La Ragione.
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Bitween, based in Milan Italy, has a diverse portfolio of skills in the Internet and
Wireless space, covering everything from Web site design and implementation
through to applications development. Recently they have released a number of
Games for the Nokia 9200 series communicator and 7650 as well as an
application that allows a PC to be controlled from a communicator. I spoke to
Director Roberto La Ragione to find out more about what makes Bitween tick.
WDN: Bitween seems to have a portfolio of business applications with some
significant clients including Samsung and local firm Brondi. So what brought
you to developing games for the Symbian OS?
Roberto: A number of people who joined Bitween when we formed the company
already had games experience. However we have only started producing games
recently. Two years ago, when we were starting, it was too early to write game for
Symbian as there were not enough devices out there to achieve reasonable sales.
We strongly believe that the Symbian OS is going to becoming a standard, but at
present the device numbers are not too great. Its getting better though, we
understand that here in Italy there have been some 120 thousand Nokia 7650's
sold and that may get to 250 thousand by Christmas.
I believe that these mobiles will be the new GameBoy, they will have business
uses but the major market will be in entertainment and personal applications.
That having been said we want to cover all aspects of Symbian OS development,
both consumer and business.
WDN: Most of your games seem to be written in C++ but recently you have
produced a Java game, why did you do this?
Roberto: Yes we do most of our development in native Symbian C++. I actually
developed Deep Blue just for fun in my spare time, which is reflected in the price!
There was a serious side to the exercise, evaluating Java as a development option
for the Symbian OS, but I'm not sure that we need any more Java developers! I
think that we will keep our focus on Symbian native development, itís an
important differenciator for our company.
WDN: I noticed that you seem to be one of the first companies advertising
software for the Sony Ericsson P800. How straightforward have you found
development for UIQ?
Roberto: Yes we have ported Remote Control, an application that allows you to
control a PC from a Nokia 9210. Really we found the porting itself quite
straightforward, the only real challenge was learning CodeWarrior.
WDN: How challenging was the switch to CodeWarrior?
Roberto: We were lucky because we already knew the CodeWarrior toolset from
our work with the Palm OS. As the IDE is very similar for both products it was
not too hard. It is quite a change however for those who have been used to using
Visual C++. While much of the process is easier with CodeWarrior at the moment
I cannot really judge how good it is because I have a prototype P800 so if I find a
problem I don't know whether it is in my application, CodeWarrior or in the
This was what made the porting a challenge for us, but we have ported it. In fact
we demonstrated Remote Control in association Sony Ericsson at the SMAU
exhibition here in Italy last month.
WDN: There has been some grumbling about the way that Sony Ericsson have
approached developer support. What are your thoughts on this?
Roberto: We have had great support from the local team but I have to say that I
am not entirely certain about Sony Ericssonís approach overall. I did not see why
we needed to pay 500 Euro for support to enter the application competition
because we don't need support. We already have good Symbian experience in the
I certainly think that this will be a significant problem getting Nokia developers
over to the P800.
So I have not entered Remote Control into the Sony Ericsson competition, but it
has been entered into the Symbian competition which does not cost anything.
WDN: Several of your games you either have or will have versions for both the
9200 and 7650. What challenges have you encountered in making these games
available for both platforms?
Roberto: When porting between these devices you need to allow for the change in
screen size and the different User Interface frameworks, otherwise they are
virtually the same. And in many ways games are the easiest applications to port
between devices as they don't extensively use the User Interface framework. So
the screen size and differences with keyboards are probably the biggest
The other problem is the size of the games. For example, we have recently
released Cosmic Fighter a streetfighter style game. It has 4 backgrounds, 300
animations, 4 characters, 15 moves for each character, amazing music and
sound effects. This takes up 1.2Mb of space on a device.
We have set ourselves a rule that the size of a game should be limited to about
1MB, which is a size that can be installed onto the 7650. Cosmic Fighter was
going to have 8 backgrounds and 8 characters but it was getting close to 2Mb
and too big for the 7650. So we pulled back the features to make porting with
largely the same code possible.
WDN: You have also just released your first multi-user multi-handset game.
Roberto: You mean Tennis. We also show cased this game at SMAU and it
seems to have pleased the local Nokia team because it uses Bluetooth. While
business users understand Bluetooth its not well understood by the general
public. Tennis is a great way to demonstrate what you can do with Bluetooth to
the wider consumer audience.
WDN: You have recently opened your own on-line store. Several developers we
have spoken to seem to have found that this is not an effective sales mechanism,
preferring to use Handango. What was your reason for setting up the shop?
Roberto: We do use Handango. However I think that the culture in Italy is
different from elsewhere and Italians seem to prefer buying their software from
local companies. But we will continue to use outlets like Handango and Nokia's
Software Market as well as independent sites like my-symbian.
WDN: One of the channels that many people think will be key is the Network
Operators, are you pursuing this as an option?
Roberto: We have had one enquiry from Vodafone in the UK about Remote
Control, but beyond that we have not had any success with network operators
yet. I wonder whether they feel that we are currently too small, I'm not sure. Itís
a channel we are interested in but we have not managed to break into it yet.
WDN: How have you found the support from Symbian, Nokia and others in
Roberto: Nokia have been brilliant and they are providing us with great support;
similarly the local Sony Ericsson team has been very helpful. It was not like this
two years ago but I think as Nokia have learnt about us and seen our product
catalog, seen what we can do, they have become more supportive.
So for example our software is sold through the Nokia shops here in Italy and we
have just joined Tradepoint.
WDN: What are your future plans for software on the Symbian OS?
Roberto: We have more games on the way and are planning on creating business
orientated applications, maybe something around database type functionality,
but we have not yet decided.
A large portion of our production will be games as their life cycle is very short.
We do have a 3D engine that we will be using for future games but at the moment
we are concentrating on creating high quality 2D games.
Also, while we are confident about the Symbian OS we want to reach as many
customers as possible. So are also continuing to work on the other mobile
operating systems but we are bearing in mind that the market already seems to
have decided what the standard will be.
For more, please visit www.bitween.com
About the WDN Symbian Editor, Richard Bloor:Symbian DevZone Home
Richard Bloor has 16 years experience in the IT industry. His earlier
work was largely in design and development of commercial and
manufacturing systems but more recently has focused on
development and test management of government systems.
Richard Bloor is the Mobile Applications champion at System
Architecture consultancy Equinox of Wellington, New Zealand.
Richard can be reached at email@example.com.
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