Opinion Articles

Friday, October 14, 2011

Handset manufacturer seeks mobile developer for mutually-rewarding relationship

Mark Bridge writes:

Call me naive or call me cynical - in either case you won’t be the first - but I was a little surprised to see a strong manufacturer presence at Droidcon UK last week. I’d assumed that manufacturers might be inclined to pick a popular operating system and then just start making devices.

What’s Droidcon?  In simple terms it’s an Android-only developer conference. The two-day programme is organised by software training & events company Skills Matter and the Wireless Industry Partnership (WIP). I was invited along and, having thoroughly enjoyed Over The Air, I leapt at the opportunity.

Anyway, Cisco, HTC and Sony Ericsson weren’t just present; they were also on the list of Droidcon’s high-profile sponsors.

I spoke to Michael Ludden, Developer Evangelist with the HTCdev programme, and asked him why HTC wasn’t merely watching developers do their own thing.

“The reason HTCdev exists is to engage with the developer community”, he explained. “We believe that we need developers; we’ve been listening to the community and this is a response to an outcry for support from HTC.”

So why shouldn’t developers create standard Android apps, I asked?

“We want you to write for stock Android”, he insisted. “We’re not asking developers to not write Android apps and to write HTC apps. We want you to write great Android apps that also run very well on HTC devices... or just great Android apps!  And where there are opportunities for differentiation on our devices, we want to provide the tools.”

Michael gave an example of developers wanting to add pen functionality for HTC tablets, with HTCdev helping implement this within a couple of days while still keeping the app functional for other Android tablets.

“We have sample code and documentation on our website to make it super-simple to add something that could potentially exponentially increase your downloads of an app on our devices... and still work on other devices”.

Marcus Hansson from Sony Ericsson described developers as being “the ones that actually enhance our phones” and reminded me about Sony Ericsson’s contributions to the Android source code. What was his message to developers?

“We are willing to help them as much as possible with tools, support, tips & tricks and also with promotion. We know it’s hard to be visible on [the] Android market today with so many apps and games. We can help in promotion with the brand we have and also with other channels of promotion for the developers.”

One of Sony Ericsson’s current promotional campaigns is Standout from the Crowd, which offers marketing support to game developers. Android developers with games that are particularly suited to the Xpedia Play are encouraged to submit details of their apps. Over 20 titles have been ‘discovered’ by the Standout campaign so far, Marcus told me.

Finally to Cisco, which was at Droidcon with the Cius tablet. I asked business development manager Marcus O'Sullivan why I’d not heard much about this Android-powered device.

“It’s really a mobile collaboration tablet - and one of the reasons why you probably haven’t seen it before is because it’s very much an Enterprise device. It’s a standard Android tablet [with] a wrapper of features and functionality around it, starting with security. In addition to that, we’ve put a suite of collaboration applications.”

As well as working with Cisco’s collaboration applications, the Cius will also integrate with Cisco’s IP telephone products for voice and video calls - and an optional dock can turn the Cius into a VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) terminal with keyboard and mouse.

But what was Cisco talking to mobile developers about?

“Our primary interest is in Enterprise applications”, said Marcus. “We have examples of business intelligence applications; developers can very simply build in click-to-call or to initiate a WebEx conference or to even send a simple IM to another user in the enterprise. The application developers we’re really keen on meeting are those who have business applications that lend themselves to being collaboration enabled or extended.”

As I admitted earlier, at first I was surprised to learn that manufacturers were enthusiastically encouraging Android development - but it’s a reassuring acknowledgement that their business isn’t simply about shifting boxes. The attraction to Android is no one-night stand. It’s looking much more like a long-term relationship.

You can listen to the full podcast from Droidcon UK on our website, via iTunes or by downloading the MP3 file. As well as hearing from the contributors listed above you’ll also hear from event organiser Thibaut Rouffineau and Terence Eden, Developer Community Manager at InMobi.
Author: The Fonecast
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