Symbian offers app developers a helping hand

Event Horizon...
Written by Natasha Lomas, Contributor

Event Horizon...

Developers working on apps for Symbian OS are to be offered a helping hand.

The Symbian Foundation, the organisation which steers the development of the open source mobile OS, has announced a new division - called Symbian Horizon - that will offer technical help and other services to aid the best apps in getting to market.

Competition for mobile app developers has never been so fierce, with more mobile OSes and app stores fighting for consumers' attention. Although Symbian still has the biggest share of the OS market - 47.1 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to analyst house Gartner - it has not necessarily been able to interest developers to the extent of some of its rivals.

Apple's iPhone, for example, has proved particularly attractive for developers - with more than 50,000 apps now offered via the iTunes App Store. Google, meanwhile, has offered Android developers cash prizes in a series of competitions to raise interest and create a buzz around the platform.

Shaun Puckrin, head of community support at the Symbian Foundation, told silicon.com: "It is about addressing the issue that it's hard to get to market on Symbian. We have this great carrot of a lot of devices, an ever growing number of devices, and consumers are using these products; but getting to them has proved tough for some people, so really the intention here is to reduce those barriers to entry to get those applications into the hands of consumers."

Puckrin said Symbian Horizon - which is due to launch in October - will act rather like a book publisher or record label by "servicing the space between application developers and the application stores".

Developers will be encouraged to submit their apps for review by Horizon staff and those judged to be of the best quality, the most innovative and which make best use of the platform will be singled out for special treatment.

Help for chosen developers could include technical advice about improving hardware compatibility; help with marketing or sales advice; translation services to help apps go international and assistance getting their app through the Symbian Signed certification programme.

Puckrin admitted the Symbian Signed process can be seen as a hurdle by developers.

"We have over 2,000 applications go through [Symbian Signed] each month but at the same time we recognise that there are some issues with it and that people see it as a barrier to entry in the market," he said, adding that the Foundation is also looking at developing Symbian Signed to "see where we can take that".

In the future, it won't just be the cream of the crop developers who get Horizon's helping hand.

"Over time we'll improve the developer offering to enable people to effectively self-service themselves through Horizon," he added. "Certainly in the short term this isn't a programme destined for everybody to use. But we are looking to get to a point where we can accept more and more applications through this and tier this service so that there are more easier ways to enable a longer tail of applications to come through."

However, for the first six months to a year, Horizon's focus will remain on a "premier layer of applications", according to Puckrin.

App stores currently signed up to Horizon are AT&T's MEdia Mall, Nokia's Ovi Store and the Saumsung Application Store, with more companies currently in discussions with the Foundation.

Horizon has already vetted a number of app-makers, with the likes of The Guardian, location based mobile dating service Skout and wine retailer Wine.com passing its quality test.

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