The main theme of this year’s show was Symbian OS 9. Symbian OS 9 introduces improved platform security together with enhancements that will encourage the use of the Symbian OS in mass market mid-range phones. At the same time, the two main Symbian UI platforms, UIQ and Series 60, have taken the opportunity to make their user interfaces more flexible so that network operators can easily brand phones and multiple form-factors can be supported (keyboard/non keyboard, stylus/no stylus, different screen resolutions).
These changes have caused many knock on effects including new handsets, a break in existing application compatibility, new developer tools, developer accreditation, a new UIQ developer programme and new implications related to securing (signing) applications.
Sony Ericsson: P990
New features over the P910 include 3G, WiFi (simultaneously with 3G), a backlit QWERTY keyboard on the phone rather than on the flip-down keypad, video telephony, 2M pixel camera with auto focus and 80Mb of memory. The P990 will be available in Q1 2006.
As mentioned previously, UIQ 3 brings with it the capability for managed layouts that allow the same data to be shown in different ways depending on the device type and network operator configuration. Something called the ‘Operator Configuration Package’ determines the style, brand and any preloaded data. For example, a phone might be preloaded with network operator customer services numbers. Sony Ericsson have replaced PersonalJava with JAVA CDC 1.0 (JSR 36) which will provide a new way to develop for the P990 in addition to the more mainstream CLDC 1.1.
Nokia E60, E61 and E70
The new Eseries targets the same enterprise market as the P990. Similarly, they will support 3G and WiFi. The E60 features a ‘conventional’ (6680 style) design. The E60 is a more ‘BlackBerry’ style wide design with QWERTY keyboard. The E70 opens up to reveal a keyboard to the left and right of the screen. They are all based on the Series 60 3rd Edition and will be available worldwide in Q1/2006.
RIM has previously taken everyone by surprise with the rapid take-up of the BlackBerry by business. These Sony Ericsson and Nokia phones are clearly aimed at the BlackBerry market. RIM is aware of this and had a stand at the show demonstrating BlackBerry Connect for the Symbian OS.
Nokia 3rd Edition Feature Pack 1
The announced Nokia devices (in addition to the already announced N91) are only the start. During H1 2006, further phones will be released that support improved web browsing, push to talk as standard and advanced device management.
Web browsing will be more standards compliant and incorporate user experience improvements. For this, Nokia has chosen to develop this themselves from KDE/Apple source code rather than licensing Netfront or Opera.
Push to talk will become based on OMA standards rather than proprietary as is the case with current Series 60 devices.
Advanced device management will also be based on OMA standards and allow firmware updates, applications management, remote lock and remote wipe. This will bring the Series 60 up to the level of device management already offered by Microsoft in Windows Mobile.
There will be a flexible customisation framework with layout descriptions separate to code allowing, for example, Idle screen customisation and an operator specific application screen.
Symbian is on target to ship 50 million phones this year and aims to sell 200 million/year by 2008. In order to achieve this Nokia will create Series 60 phones targeting specific device segments, for example, music, imaging and business. Nokia will also target sub-segments such as outdoor, health, fitness as well as playing on the ‘classic’ smartphone for the high end user. The second way Nokia hopes to achieve high volume sales is by producing cost optimised phones. This means reducing the number of CPUs (Having one rather than two controlling the phone and applications), optimising the code to fit less powerful architectures and using cheaper hardware such as cheaper displays.
Unsigned (uncertified) Symbian applications currently just show a warning when the application is installed. Symbian OS 9 has been built with the rationale that there is a need for tighter control of applications, in particular, to protect against future viruses, unexpected items on a user’s bill, improve reliability and protect the privacy of data on the device. In this way, it’s hoped more network operators (and Enterprises) will trust and hence use more smartphones .
Platform security introduces the new concept of capabilities. Capabilities are fixed Symbian-defined groups of functionality, for example ‘NetworkServices’, which must be declared by the application at the time of installation. Depending on whether the application has passed Symbian Signed or not determines what happens when the application uses each type of capability. For the example of NetworkServices, at the time of installation unsigned applications ask the user if they wish to allow the user to access network related services. Signed applications remain silent. Some capabilities ask at the time of installation, others every time the particular functionality is used. The exact behaviour for each capability can be different across UIQ and Series 60. There are also a few rarely used capabilities related to critical phone functionality, which can’t be used unless the application is signed and approval has been obtained from the phone OEM as part of the Symbian Signed process.
Data caging is also a new concept similar to J2ME where, by default, applications can only access their own data. This can be overridden if the application declares upfront that it needs these capabilities and the phone will show the appropriate warnings depending on whether the application is Symbian Signed or not
Digia Symbian Signed Testing Tool
Symbian Signed is a set of tests performed by a third party test house. It’s often difficult for developers to know if their application will pass the tests because the tests are not all quantitative and developers don’t currently have access to test tools. To solve this problem, Symbian have commissioned Digia to develop a pre-test tool for UIQ and Series 60. The free download should be available from Symbian within the next two weeks.
There’s a chicken and egg situation where developers may need to test an application on a real phone before it has actually been Symbian Signed. Free developer certificates obtained from the Symbian Signed site allow testing on specific phones (IMEIs). Each certificate will be valid for six months.
Free Signing for Freeware Applications
There has been consternation in the freeware community that the new platform security would be too expensive and closed to non-companies who can’t get a verisign ID for Symbian Signing. Symbian have created a special process for freeware applications that allows for free testing and signing of freeware applications.
There’s currently confusion, duplicated tool effort and general dissatisfaction with the level of tool support provided by Borland, Codewarrior and via Visual Studio.Net.
A new tool, based on Eclipse, has been announced that will roll out as three editions over the next twelve months. The free ‘Express’ version will be available in January 2006 and provide support for all Series 60 and UIQ 2.x, 3.x SDKs. A developer edition will follow with a RAD IDE to create UI components/code in a way much like the existing Borland C++ BuilderX 1.5. The price will be 299 Euros. A Professional version will be released much later with on target debugging and performance related features. The price hasn’t yet been fixed.
Support for Symbian development under Codewarrior, Borland and Visual Studio will be phased out.
It was hinted that Carbide.c++ is just the start and that other variants (Carbide.java?) would appear in the future.
Symbian have tasked Symsource and Majinate to implement a developer accreditation test which is now available online. Actual developers at Symbian have been taken as baseline. Much later, there will be Professional levels to recognise developers in specific areas ( e.g. UIQ, Games etc).
New UIQ Developer Programme
UIQ have introduced a developer programme and intend to replace Sony Ericsson as the first line of contact for UIQ specific code support. A pre-release UIQ 3.0 SDK was distributed at the show and will also be available at the forthcoming Orange Code Camp. The new UIQ developer programme will include Nokia Forum type information such as FAQs, forums and examples. Sony Ericsson will continue to provide support for their specific extensions to UIQ.
In addition to the Symbian and Licensee announcements, there were many third party announcements…
TRY from Mobile Innovation
TRY is a new automated test tool for the Symbian OS. TRY works on both the emulator and device. Tests can be performed across Series 60, 80, 90 and UIQ.
Wirelexsoft VistaMax IDE
Wirelexsoft demonstrated an Eclipse based RAD tool to create UIQ, Series 60 and Java user interfaces.
VIDA Partner Programme
VIDA demonstrated a server speech recognition system that allows natural interaction with applications. VIDA has a new partner programme that provides ISVs with access to development tools and business development opportunities.
Texas Instruments White LED Driver for Camera Phone Flash.
The new chip will allow brighter flashes and ultimately better pictures.
DreamSpring Contact Manager
DreamSpring announced DreamConnect 2 an enhanced contact manager for UIQ. Features include undo, redo, contact merging, rich views and operations on multiple contacts.
Zi Corporation Predictive Text Suite
Zi announced the availability of all of its predictive text features in a single package available from Handango and its affiliates.
Psiloc OS 9 Compatible Solutions
Psiloc announced that its DRM Common Solutions, Wireless Presenter, HotSpotFinder and Mobile Mouse are compatible with Series 60 3rd Edition, under Symbian OS 9.
Telmap Navigation Solution
Telmap announced the launch of a native Symbian version of its Polaris solution for mobile navigation.
About the Author
Simon Judge, a PMN Associate, is a freelance mobile consultant. Simon provides advice and development services for Symbian, J2ME and Microsoft Windows Mobile. Simon can be contacted via his web site at http://www.simonjudge.com.