Symbian to get Visual Basic support

The arrival of the first beta of AppForge for Symbian later this month will allow the smartphones to tap into a large body of existing Visual Basic applications

AppForge, the popular Visual Basic development platform for mobile devices, is to arrive in beta-test form for Symbian devices in the next few days, potentially expanding the pool of enterprise applications available for devices like Nokia's Communicator.

In February, Nokia and AppForge announced a deal to bring a Symbian-compatible version of the software to market, and the first beta version of the software is due by the end of March. A public beta is scheduled for April, and a new version of AppForge including Symbian support is to arrive in June.

Symbian OS has been around for several years in the form of EPOC, which was previously used in handheld devices from the UK's Psion, but the release of a Symbian-compatible AppForge may be a sign of increasing developer interest in the platform. AppForge allows the large pool of Visual Basic developers to quickly create applications for mobile and wireless devices, incuding Palm and Pocket PC handheld computers. The company claims that with Symbian support, AppForge software will run on 90 percent of all PDA devices shipping today.

The Symbian OS is making its debut in the US market in the form of the Nokia 9290 Communicator in the first half of this year, which could stoke the interest of US-based developers. AppForge claims to have more than 50,000 developers in large organisations such as Pfizer, Honeywell and Bell Canada. Nokia hopes that such companies will use AppForge to port existing enterprise applications to its device.

"By cutting the time to deploy existing mobile applications on Communicators, we'll anticipate greater productivity in development teams," stated Lee Wright, head of Nokia's American developer programme, when the new AppForge was announced.

Symbian is promoting its operating system for a wide variety of devices, but take-up has been sluggish because of slower-than-expected growth in the smartphone market. Nokia and Ericsson currently make Symbian smartphones, and other manufacturers such as Samsung have recently announced plans to join in.

Microsoft is heavily promoting its own Windows Powered Smartphone 2002 software, which will make its debut in the US and the UK later this year.


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