Clarity needed for Symbian software developers

by John Styles | posted on 03 July 2002

A reader queries the good sense of confusing software developers with vague and conflicting examples of which language to use, and which direction to go in.

I feel sure I am not the only person to query is what I see as a certain lack of clarity about what third parties should be doing to develop software for the Symbian Platform(s).

The key question to my mind is "suppose one wanted to develop software for the four actively sold, or about-to-be-sold devices (Psion NetBook, 2 Nokias and Ericsony) - what language and/or tools is one supposed to be using?" with the subsidary question of "and where is all this going?"

The problem is multiple versions. The NetBook seems to be ER5, the two Nokia's seem to be ER6 and the Ericsony ER7 - does this mean that one is supposed to compile three, or four different versions? If so, what does one develop them with given that ER5 and ER6 use the half-arsed Visual Studio GCC combination and ER7 uses the expensive version of CodeWarrior?

Bear in mind also that the half-arsed version uses an old version of Visual Studio - that is, Visual Studio 6 not Visual Studio.NET which, despite the name, can of course be used for non .NET code.

Then again there is OPL - supported for 5 and in beta for the 9210, but will there ever be one for ER7?

And as to Java - are we supposed to deduce anything from the fact that the Java version of CodeWarrior is cheaper than the C++/Java version - is this a deal telling us that "Java is the sensible thing to develop with, so we charge a sensible price for Java and a 'gullable corporates' price for C++ language users?" Or is it rather a case of "Java is for dabblers but C++ is the real deal, so we charge a low price for Java and a high price for C++" that they're trying to tell us?

I must admit that the Java for Symbian book seemed to me to be more a case of giving reasons why you should develop in C++", in terms of all the loving details of problems and limitations with Java on the platform.

If you look at the Symbian newsgroups on their own server, you will see that there does seem to be a general level of confusion which isn't really addressed by the Symbian people who post to the newsgroups.

Clearly one could argue that this may not matter very much, depending on how much you expect people to develop third party solutions for the platform - and it may be that the only 3rd party developers are 'insiders' who know the official story. On the other hand, you could argue that this is going to encourage third parties to avoid Symbian like the plague and develop for the other two main platforms.

My interest in all this is academic, no more; my sole experience with these platforms is having dabbled slightly with OPL on the Psion 3 and having installed the Nokia ER6 C++ compiler and compiled some of the demos for the emulator. I also am a proud owner of a GeoFox, but that's another story ...