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Charting a Steady Course for Forum Nokia
Nokia's Lee Epting provides an update on Forum Nokia happenings.
by Terrence O'Donnell

April 17, 2006

As an important player in mobile technology, Nokia continues to gain ground in the North American region, and that is where a lot of innovation in mobile application development is occurring, according to Lee Epting, vice president of Forum Nokia.

FTPOnline touched base with Epting at the recent CTIA Wireless 2006 Conference in Las Vegas. The mobile industry is bustling so much in North America, in fact, that Epting has relocated to Nokia's White Plains, N.Y., office as her base of operations, since we spoke with her in Barcelona at Nokia's Mobility Conference last fall (see "Expanding Mobile Development Tools"). At the CTIA event, Epting filled us in on a number of topics concerning developers and the Forum Nokia and Forum Nokia Pro communities.

"Regardless of what's happening in the industry, if you think about what's coming out of the U.S., this is where we see most of the innovation in terms of the technology and what people are doing on the platform. I think something like 26 percent of our total Pro community is [composed of] U.S.-based companies. We're going to invest here, but it's not just investing in terms of good, new products; it's also a reflection of our senior management investment as well."

On the tools side, Forum Nokia continues to put a more concerted effort around the Eclipse platform in terms of getting all of its tools ported over to and running on top of Eclipse. Carbide.j, the Java tools part of the Carbide suite, was also just released officially.

"It really is an evolutionary story in that we're making huge strides in terms of the RAD capability in the tool suite," Epting said, "and I would say evolving the tools in a way that gets them on par with the industry. We've already been doing that in the Java space, with our mobile Java tools, but on the native side that's where we've been spending a lot of time at creating better integration, a better experience, a much more visual experience. Developers are really taking advantage of that. They're enjoying that, and they like the fact that we released free tools to the market; they don't have to buy a tool to get started."

Epting said that overall there has been a steady increase in the number of developers who have registered at the Forum Nokia site. She said that currently there are more than 2.3 million registrants, and that number will likely swell by roughly 100,000 every six months or so.

"The momentum is going well. The application portfolio is also growing. On the Symbian side, the cumulative number of total applications for the Symbian platform is now well over 5,200, and on the Java source we've been running with an industry number of something like 45,000 total mobile Java applications," Epting said.

Recent Forum Nokia Pro news that was released prior to the CTIA event was the launching of two new zones—the Games Zone and the Flash Zone—that are now available in addition to the Enterprise and Network Zones, which were already available to Forum Nokia Pro members.

When asked if there is a place for Flash in enterprise development, Epting responded: "Sure. [Flash is] really good for things like tutorials. And even in this device [referring to the recently released Nokia 6126, a fold-style, Series 40 Platform 3rd Edition device that features, in addition to the Flash technology, a 1.3 megapixel digital camera, a 2.2-inch display, and a digital music player among other features], if you consider just tutorials, I think there's a lot of applicability. If you were in a learning company and your primary focus was to teach via mobile, that would be a great tool. It's small, it's compact, it's very visual, and it's interactive. We're very excited about it, and that's why we did the zone with Adobe and continue to work with them."

Heading to Port
Just prior to the Nokia Mobility Conference in the Fall of 2005, the announcements of the new Symbian OS 9 and the 3rd Editions of both the Nokia Series 40 Platform and Nokia S60 Platform raised the issue of porting applications written for the previous editions to the new platforms, as well as developers' ability to grapple with the challenges of the binary break on both platforms. Epting was asked how the porting issue has played out from her perspective over the past five or six months.

"It's been going quite well. In the early days you're a bit concerned because you don't have any control. What we did is a lot of messaging, we did really great documentation, and we've run lots of technical seminars around the world. We've put up a bunch of 'carrots' for people to start to move before we even finalized our SDKs. We've got our 3rd Edition contest right now that we've been running; the winners are going to be announced in a month or so. We've got hundreds of developers that have put in their applications for 3rd Edition. I think something on the order of 76 percent of our Pro community has stated that they have or are planning to port their solutions to 3rd Edition [soon]. We have well over 80 or 90 applications that have already been submitted for Symbian signing, and half of them have already received their signings. Twenty-six Pro companies delivered 40 different applications already that are all 3rd Edition. I've been talking to a lot of developers here [at CTIA, most of whom] have either started or already completed their 3rd Edition port. I think in general that's gone well."

Epting said that there might be some development "glitches"—in terms of more work to be done for developers porting an application—depending on how deeply they went into the operating system in their 2nd Edition development. If they were active in certain APIs that are no longer publicly available or have changed because of the rearchitecture, then that requires more challenging work. However, Epting said in general she is optimistic that developers are meeting this challenge, and believes the community will move over as more 3rd Edition–based hardware becomes available, which began with the recent announcement of the Nokia 3250 device release, Nokia's first S60 3rd Edition release. (For further details on porting to S60 3rd Edition, see "Migrate Mobile Client Applications.")

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