Pythonaro blog

09 February 2010

Mobile applications for Nokia phones with... javascript ?!?

A few days ago the lovely folks at NSManchester, an Apple user group, gave a chance to "the enemy" (i.e. Nokia) to present their technology stack and business strategies for attracting developers.

The two presenter were a bit underwhelming (understandable after they went through the usual, hellish experience with British railway services), and there was little talk of my beloved Maemo, but it's hard to dismiss the technology stack they have chosen to go forward. Key element seems to be the QT library they acquired last year, which I know and love through the original Python bindings. It's powerful and as cross-platform as it can be, with a lot of mindshare in the Linux and Windows communities; this said, it's still C++, and it's hard to get excited about C++ these days. Also, the runtime will gradually appear on new and recent phones but probably won't make it to older ones.

The second development platform they are pushing, however, was more of a surprise to me. Apparently, you can use JavaScript to write applications for recent smartphones (S60 5th ed. -- N97 and 5800 -- and S60 3rd ed. FP2 -- e.g. E72, N85, N96 etc). You can access GPS coordinates, contacts and calendar items, as well as having complete freedom to design the UI with standard HTML and CSS. You don't need to sign the resulting packages, the barrier to entry is lowered dramatically. This is potentially a game-changer, and I don't know why Nokia are not shouting it from the rooftops. Early adopters include Netflix, which uses a basic JavaScript interface to stream their Flash content (!) -- so yes, you can use flash as well. My head simply went "boom"; I must look into this stuff.

One other thing I noticed was the presenters' style, typically European: self-deprecation and brutal honesty about things that work and ones that don't. It was refreshing, after weeks of Yanks propaganda from Google and Apple pushing their new gadgets as "fantastic", "amazing", "revolutionary" etc etc etc...

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posted by GiacomoL @ 8:16 AM   0 comments links to this post

25 January 2010

How the Nokia N900 is improving my life

(Small things, but...)

Today I had to took my car to the garage, so had to tell my manager I'd likely be late (public transport is not terrible in our area, but it still takes me about twice the time to get to the office than it would with the car). I'm also down with a laryngitis and I can barely whisper.

I could have booted my home laptop to send an email or IM, but meanwhile the bus would have come and gone. So I hit the road anyway, and thought I would somehow email from the phone.

But then, the Nokia N900 is no Blackberry; it's a full-fledged linux desktop in your pockets. When I enabled the 3G data connection, the button nearby was the one to set your IM status(es) to Online; so I fired that up, looked up my manager in the wonderfully integrated address book, and she was online, so while I sit on the bus, we had a friendly chat about things to do, without having to share them with other commuters or strain my poor throat.

All the while, I was listening to the latest Python 411 podcast about the (apparently terrific and currently-slashdotted) Sikuli project, updating expenses on the little program I've developed (which I'll upload to the Ovi Store in a few weeks, I promise), and browsing Google Reader. The 30-mins commute was over in what seemed like seconds, and the experience was basically the same I could have had while sitting at my desk with a regular laptop.

This little thing is simply outstanding. Apple's new "iWhatever" better have a SIM slot, or they can kiss goodbye to their iPhone marketshare.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 11:18 AM   1 comments links to this post

18 January 2010

Nokia Ovi Store Policies on SaaS / subscriptions: fail

(Chances are that nobody will answer this question, like it happened to this developer on, but what the hell)

I have an interesting business idea. I'll develop a mobile application with some interesting functionality, and I'll give it away for free. The application will contain an option to upload some data to a remote server, which you will then access from any computer as a regular site. The website will have some advanced features to analyze the data etc etc. The site will operate as SaaS, with a free 30-day trial. Basically, the site will make the real money, in a way similar to what FeedDemon and NewsGator tried a few years ago in a different market.

Now, if I wanted to do that on Nokia platforms, I would try and put my mobile app on the Ovi Store as a free download, right? After all, it will be a useful program in its own right, with the online services being 100% optional. Nokia / Ovi get a free, useful app enriching its (crappy) customer experience, the developer gets a big distribution channel, it's a win-win!

Except that landlords don't like uppity sharecroppers. From the Ovi Terms & Conditions:

4.7. Free Content Restriction

You are prohibited from collecting future charges from end users for Content that those end users were initially allowed to obtain for free. This is not intended to prevent distribution of free trial versions of Your Content with a later upsell option to obtain the full version of the Content. Such free trials for Content are permitted. However, if You want to collect fees after the free trial expires, You must collect all fees for the full version of Your Content through the Program. In this Agreement, "free" means there are no charges or fees of any kind for use of the Content. All fees received by You for Content distributed via the Program must be processed by Nokia.

Now, I can see the motive behind such a "racket clause". Nokia doesn't want Ovi to end up a cesspool of trialware, or to be associated with "click once and pay forever" scams. But the rule is too broad, and it reads like any SaaS scenario is simply out of the question (especially when you consider that Ovi does not support "subscriptions" at the moment, only one-off payments). SaaS is probably the best revenue model in the software world at the moment, and Nokia is telling developers they can't use it.

I honestly do not know if Apple put similar restrictions in place on their store. They probably did (and then some), control-freak as they are, and this is why I wouldn't want to touch the iPhone ecosystem with a barge pole. But Nokia was supposed to be trying hard to regain developer mindshare...

So the question I'd like to ask, before I shell out for the Ovi "publisher" license, is: dear Nokia, my application does something useful on your mobiles. It will then, optionally, send some data to my server, and I will personally collect money to have people access that data on the web, aggregated in various ways. Can I put the app on Ovi?

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posted by GiacomoL @ 2:51 PM   3 comments links to this post

28 January 2008


First, I upgrade the ATI drivers on my linux laptop and they break 3D. Then Nokia buys Trolltech, the company behind Qt and KDE. Is this God's way to tell me to switch to a GNOME-based distribution? Sigh.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 10:51 PM   0 comments links to this post