Symbian accelerates application-signing process

Developers writing applications for the Symbian OS could find it easer and cheaper to have their products officially certified by the mobile OS manufacturer under a new programme
Written by Munir Kotadia, Contributor

Symbian is hoping to make it easier and cheaper for developers to certify any new applications written for the Symbian operating system from Tuesday by launching its Symbian Signed initiative.

Previously, if a third party wrote an application for the Symbian platform, the application's developer would have to submit it for testing by a specified "testing house" before Symbian would give its official stamp of approval. Software that has been officially certified by Symbian is regarded as safer to use because it's less likely to interfere with other applications running on the device.

The Symbian Signed process, which has been in a beta-testing stage for the past six months, allows large developers to test and approve their own software, which makes it easier and cheaper to market completed applications.

Simon Garth, vice president of market development and general manager of Symbian's Cambridge office, said that in the past there have not been enough developers submitting their applications to the signing process because it was too expensive and time-consuming. By authorising larger developers to approve their own applications, Garth expects to increase the amount of digitally signed software on the market.

Garth said applications without a digital signature may not worry a technically adept user, but it could affect the general population -- more of whom are purchasing Symbian-based devices.

"Symbian devices are much more prevalent in the market and average users are not as tech-savvy as they were a couple of years ago, so we need to ensure that those users have confidence in the applications being produced," Garth said.

According to Garth, independent development houses wanting to self-certify their applications will need to show Symbian that they are a company of "good standing" and have the necessary software development and testing skills. Alternatively, they can either continue to send applications to third-party testing houses or, using something called a Publisher Signing agreement, have their applications signed off by an established Symbian developer such as Vodafone or IBM.

"Publisher Signing is where certain publishers can sign applications on behalf of small software developers -- this means that smaller vendors can be accommodated in the scheme as well," Garth said.

Handset manufacturers Sony Ericsson and Nokia both confirmed that from 1 January, 2005, neither of them will deal with Symbian applications that have not been through the signing process.

Symbian's Garth said he estimates there are around 12 million Symbian OS phones already on the market so it is in the industry's best interest to improve Symbian OS phone users experiences.

"For example, the removal of installation 'health' warnings immediately creates a better user experience," Garth said.

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