HTC opens up to developers

Summary:HTCdev team members Jad Boniface and Michael Ludden tell ZDNet UK why manufacturers are rushing to open up their Android UIs for modification and why HTC's Windows Phone users no longer see Sense

HTC, like its rivals in the Android device market, is courting developers to design their apps with the manufacturer's handsets in mind.

Device makers such as HTC, Samsung and Sony Ericsson put their own mark on the stock Android operating system with customised user interfaces. HTC has the Sense UI, notable for its flip-style clock and weather animations, but now also host to new stylus input and 3D capabilities.

Lately, there has been a push among Android phone makers to bring on board people whose modifications to UIs have in the past taken place without manufacturer approval. For example, Samsung hired CyanogenMod's Steve Kondik, and Sony Ericsson gave its blessing to FreeXperia. HTC itself has released an unlock bootloader to encourage modifiers.

Earlier in October, the company's new HTCdev team sponsored the DroidCon developer meet-up in London, the first time the handset maker has taken such an active role in trying to win over those who write the apps that make the platform.

ZDNet UK caught up with Jad Boniface, the programme director for the HTCdev initiative, and Michael Ludden, from the HTCdev evangelist team, to find out more about the company's ramped-up effort and what it means for developers who want to modify Sense-based devices.

Q: What is HTCdev, and what can it offer developers?
A: (JB) It's a relatively new initiative from HTC. Recently we started this programme to have a formal presence with the developer community, to provide them with the access and resources they need to be successful.

We have a suite of APIs that you can't get through the standard Android framework. We're very committed to using the pens and HTC Scribe technology for our tablets.

The other API we're featuring heavily is the API for stereoscopic 3D, for the Evo 3D, for example. That allows developers to build 3D games that will be glasses-free, and consumers can play that on their Evo 3D.

We have a website that launched in August. Since then, we've had 500,000 unique visitors. It's been successful, although keep in mind that a lot of those visitors are coming to the site for the unlock bootloader functionality.

There has been a push recently by manufacturers to take on people who make modifications, like Kondik and FreeXperia. Why is everyone suddenly rushing to do this?
(JB) Manufacturers have come to realise that developer mindshare is one of the hottest commodities in our industry. For us it's just as important as the retail customer. We have to get the hearts and minds of developers to reach that pinnacle of success.

Manufacturers have come to realise that developer mindshare is one of the hottest commodities in our industry.

– Jad Boniface, HTC

A lot of the manufacturers and industry players are going after the same developers, and it's becoming somewhat competitive in the same way as the retail environment.

(ML) Then there are a lot of things like the OpenSense SDK — we've opened up our SDK so developers can add functionality without breaking their app.

We also have a big focus on being able to build your app and differentiate it on an HTC device without breaking Android. You can build an Android app and then, with couple of lines of code, add pen-input functionality. On an HTC Flyer it will recognise your app, but on an Evo 4G it will not break because that phone doesn't have pen input. It's differentiation without fragmentation.

The Sense UI is also found on some of HTC's earlier Windows Phones. Is the HTCdev programme aimed just at Android developers, or also at those working with Microsoft's platform?
(JB) It's a global programme, and we provide resources for all the platforms that HTC currently supports, but the SDKs we're offering are specifically for the Android platform. We don't offer SDKs for Windows Phone. Microsoft strictly controls all that.

Although the first HTC Windows Phones did have Sense, the latest ones do not.
(ML) Correct. The Windows Phone 7 experience is very uniform. We still do have...

Topics: Mobility, Smartphones


David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't be paying many bills. His early journalistic career was spent in general news, working behind the scenes for BBC radio and on-air as a newsreader for independent stations. David's main focus is on communications, of both... Full Bio

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