Symbian DevZone - MobiMate - Adding Symbian OS to their Development Repertoire
by Richard Bloor, March 31, 2003
As the number of launched and announced phones running Symbian OS grows a number of developers who have been working with Palm and Pocket PC are starting to port applications. This week we look at one such developer MobiMate of Israel who have ported their WorldMate application to Sony Ericsson P800.
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MobiMate™ (www.mobimate.com) have been developing software for handhelds and palmtops since 1998, both for the consumer market and commercial customers.
Their first application was WorldMate™ for Palm. They have a current portfolio of applications and games for Palm OS, Pocket PC and
Java enabled phones. They claim that 3 of their Palm applications are amongst the top 10 best selling Palm applications.
Their most recent release is a port of their WorldMate application to Symbian OS UIQ for the Sony Ericsson P800. WorldMate
provides details on times around the world with city weather and currency exchange rates delivered over the air from MobiMate's
server. WirelessDevNet recently spoke to Ramel Levin, Director, Product Management at MobiMate to find out more about their
experience with the Symbian OS.
WDN: Why did you decide to port WorldMate to the Symbian OS and the Sony Ericsson P800?
Ramel: I’ll start with the platform. The Sony Ericsson P800 and UIQ provides both a rich interface and features, such as a touch screen, which we felt was well matched with our current products and customers for Palm and Pocket PC. As for the product, we chose WorldMate because it seemed to fit well with Sony Ericsson’s target audience for the P800, a business buyer who being mobile probably travels more than average. So it seemed like a winning combination - WorldMate for P800. So far, it seems this was a good choice, as currently WorldMate is the top selling Symbian application at Handango.
As for other Symbian platforms, namely the Series 60, we see great potential there as well. We do not discuss specific future plans for our products, but I can tell you that Series 60 is a very attractive platform and you can guess what that means.
WDN: Did support for UIQ in CodeWarrior have an effect on the decision?
Ramel: Not really. We work with several different development environments including CodeWarrior, Visual Studio and others. It is of course easier to work with a development environment we are already familiar with, but we would have just as happily used Visual Studio if it had been necessary.
WDN: Did you have any particular challenges in undertaking the port?
Ramel: The UIQ platform is a great one in terms of the user interface and the resulting user experience. It seems to have the "right stuff" to be a great success. It is loaded with features which makes development, in many cases, quite easy. For example it includes an internal SQL database, "ready-to-use" User-Interface elements, objects such as analog clocks, tab (sheet) mechanism and others.
However, as this is a new platform, and we started working with it very early, we did run into problems in some areas such as incomplete documentation and SDK. However I believe these issues are more than likely only temporary and in the future developers won't be bothered by them.
The Metrowerks CodeWarrior IDE worked just like it does with the other platforms it supports so we didn't have any problems there.
As veteran mobile coders, we have learnt that working with a new platform means learning new paradigms, those unique to the OS. In UIQ this included exception handling, trapping and framework all of which were new to us.
We didn't find any significant area where UIQ is inferior to other mobile platforms such as Palm or Pocket PC. However, there are some APIs not yet present for telephony and the camera, but if we understand correctly these will be available in future versions of UIQ.
WDN: Were there any advantages to using UIQ over Pocket PC or Palm which you identified while undertaking the port?
Ramel: One of the advantages we noticed immediately is the stability of the code we developed for UIQ. The way Symbian OS, and therefore UIQ, works forces a developer to write cleaner code, it won't allow you to have memory leaks, it provides alerts of memory leaks when exiting a program. Perhaps more significantly we found that bugs that would crash a device running on another platform simply don’t in UIQ.
I wouldn't say the coding is easier, but it sure comes out cleaner.
WDN: How did you find the technical support from Metrowerks with regard to UIQ?
Ramel: We didn’t have any CodeWarrior related problems, very much a case of “thumbs-up Metrowerks” so we didn’t have the need to call on their support. As for the UIQ SDK, we had some minor issues, such as a missing header file, which was supplied when we pointed out it was missing.
WDN: From a commercial perspective did you receive any support from Sony Ericsson - did you look for support?
Ramel: MobiMate and Sony Ericsson have signed a deal to distribute WorldMate on the software CD that comes with the P800 as a trail version. Sony Ericsson has given us outstanding support, responding promptly and helpfully to our inquiries. We had a very tight time line to complete WorldMate, and we would have never made it without their help.
WDN: Do you now anticipate developing applications for or porting existing products to other Symbian interfaces?
Ramel: For years, analysts and reporters have been arguing that Symbian will take the market by storm while other players are doomed to failure. It seems that Symbian is taking off, Symbian based devices are out and it looks like more will join them soon. MobiMate wants to be a significant player with any such mobile platform, like we are today with Palm and Pocket PC. We have future plans for both UIQ and other Symbian interfaces; you will be hearing from us in the not too distant future.
WDN: Do you see any special opportunities or benefits from developing applications for Symbian OS?
Ramel: We feel the main benefit is the market’s potential growth for Symbian-based products. With Symbian we believe we will be able to reach more customers who have previously not owned handhelds.
WDN: Long term how important do you see the Symbian OS being to MobiMate?
Ramel: Symbian has all the ingredients for success in the mobile market. A powerful and rich operating system, backed up with the biggest players in the market. As such we see Symbian OS as an important platform which MobiMate plans to support.
To date the consumer application market for Symbian OS software has been largely dominated by software houses specializing in Symbian OS, the likes of PsiNT, Epocware, SymbianWare and Ximplify. With the range of Symbian OS devices growing and the volume of handsets becoming significant MobiMate is probably amongst the first of many companies who will expand their Palm and Pocket PC software range to encompass Symbian OS. It will be interesting to see how the market develops as these new companies, who have a far longer experience of marketing mobile software, start to compete with the more established Symbian application houses. One way or another it will mean the consumer will be seeing a wider range of quality software for their Symbian OS phone.
About the WDN Symbian Editor, Richard Bloor:Symbian DevZone Home
Richard Bloor is a freelance writer and editor with 18 years experience in the IT industry as a developer, analyst and latterly Project Manager with a particularly focus on software testing. Richard has been involved with the Symbian OS since 1995 and has been writing about it for the last 3 years.
Richard is also an associate with System Architecture consultancy Equinox of Wellington, New Zealand.
Richard can be reached at email@example.com.
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