In an effort to attract more developers into using its open source Qt framework for Symbian and MeeGo, Nokia will host a series of “code camps” and device seeing programs over the next six months. A MeeGo tablet interface, however, may not surface for some time yet.
Nokia is standardising its development ecosystem around Qt, which is acquired when it bought TrollTech in 2008.
Nokia has ported Qt to Symbian and is the basis for apps on the new MeeGo mobile platform.
Head of developer relations for Nokia in the Asia Pacific region, Kenny Mathers, said the focus for developers should be the environment, not the operating system.
“By moving smartphone development to Qt developers can start building with Qt then the underlying operating system becomes irrelevant,” Mathers said. “It can be Symbian or MeeGo and the app will work.”
“We’re saying start familiarising yourself with the Qt environment. If you build apps using this they will work on any device because the app and services layer will be built in Qt.”
Mathers said Trolltech continues to operate as an independent business and with Android and iPhone ports of Qt in the works it “gives a lot of cross-platform compatibility”.
“We also have smart installer for legacy devices – about 18 devices – so anything from S60 3.2 onwards supports Qt,” he said.
The new developer program within Nokia is aiming to reach out to more developers and attract developers to its ecosystem, including the Ovi app store.
“We’re putting resources at a local level with developer outreach facilities in Australia,” Mathers said. “To give developers the opportunity to work on Qt and over next six months we will do a series of code camps where we fly in Qt experts from over world to train local developers and built Qt apps over two to three day period.”
Other activities will include device seeding, and marketing programs to promote applications on Ovi.
Nokia also wants to start a partner program with local universities to get Qt as part of the mobile app development ecosystem.
MeeGo and Symbian stand equal
The collaboration between Nokia and Intel – and more recently AMD – around the open source MeeGo platform has attracted a lot of developer attention, says Mathers, and is now treated as an equal to Symbian for future devices.
“There is a lot on interest in MeeGo and we are trying to be as clear as possible with developers that it is a 2011 product release,” he said.
“There were also big changes for the Symbian roadmap. Symbian was being termed ‘version 4.0’ and from a consumer perspective that was great with new UI changes, but from a developer perspective it was a challenge because it would have introduced a binary break for Symbian 3 devices.”
The direction to move all development activities to Qt, Nokia took opportunity to remove the need for an upgrade to a Symbian 4 platform as the UI element will be delivered via Qt, Mathers said.
However he is confident Symbian as a platform will continue to evolve.
“If you look at the people that are developing Meego initiative its collaboration between Intel and Nokia and AMD you can see the aspirations for MeeGo extend way beyond mobile devices,” he said. “Intel has heritage in PCs and netbooks and that may include tablets as well.”
Mathers expects the MeeGo ecosystem to extend into tablets, but said it is difficult to put a timeframe for the release of a MeeGo tablet interface.
The latest MeeGo release, version 1.1, included an interface for handsets, but not tablet PCs. That hasn’t stopped rumours flying around about Nokia and other manufacturers working on a MeeGo-based tablet PC like the WeTab from Germany.
“We are investing in MeeGo as a platform for enabling devices in the mobile computing segment. I can’t say what other pc or tablet manufacturers are looking at tablets,” he said. “But, obviously it’s an area of growing interest.”
Mathers said Nokia wants to reduce the cost and complexity of its developer tools and has reduce the number of SDKs from 15 to two (Java and Qt) over the past few years.
The Ovi store not yet supported on the MeeGo handset release, but it will come pre-loaded with Nokia’s first MeeGo-based devices in 2011.