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Nokia gets Metrowerks: There's more to providing solutions.

Nokia gets Metrowerks: There's more to providing solutions.

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Nokia and Metrowerks Agree on Transfer of Application Development Technology to Nokia.  A friend of mine pointed this out to me today, asking how this plays against Microsoft's SmartPhone and PocketPC Phone strategy. 

I am not a strategy insider or anything, but this one seems pretty clear:  this is not so much about the phone strategy as it is the strategy for providing developers with the tools they need.  Look at the support in Whidbey for mobile devices and then see how this compares to what Metrowerks offers for Symbian.  Like CodeTEST, Whidbey includes unit testing and code coverage analysis.  But picture the rest of Whidbey: you aren't limited to developing mobile applications, you are able to create ASP.NET and Windows Forms UIs, smart clients using Visual Studio Tools for Office, and a host of other new project types in Whidbey.  And let's not forget the team development support found in Visual Studio Team System.

Sure, it's interesting that Nokia just invested in code coverage tools, and interesting that they are making an investment for the Symbian OS.  Now look at the bigger picture:  your organization is developing software that solves business problems, and those problems span much more than your ability to develop for a handheld device.  You need to provide alternate system interfaces for other types of client access, such as web page UIs or smart clients.  You need to integrate with your business intelligence capabilities and provide new means of extrapolating data using the tools you already own, like Office.  Security needs to be accounted for across multiple systems in the enterprise, and you need a strategy for defining and controlling business processes.  Your data storage solution should integrate seamlessly throughout these products, and your solution should not cause you to create an overly complex development environment consisting of many disparate utilities to attempt to manage the process.

Your development strategy should be so much deeper than a glancing consideration of your ability to perform code coverage for an application targeted to a mobile device. 

It turns out that my friend has only a passing familiarity with Microsoft developer tools.  Let's see if I can make him a quick believer.

  • If you consider end-to-end mobile enterprise applications, then yes, VS is more comprehensive than Metrowerks. However, most Symbian applications today are game or media applications. The client interacts with existing servers provided by infrastructure providers and wireless operators. The need for a single end-to-end IDE is not yet there. For end-to-end application development on the Nokia platforms (using Java not Symbian), you can use Eclipse or JBuilder with Nokia Developer Suites. In terms of team collaboration and refactoring support, Eclipse is much better than what I see in Whidbey beta ...
  • > Eclipse is much better than what I see in Whidbey beta

    Have you seen the Beta 1 refresh? It includes the Visual Studio Team System, unlike the previous release of Beta 1.

    > However, most Symbian applications today are game or media applications.

    > The need for a single end-to-end IDE is not yet there.

    I absolutely disagree. In fact, more and more customers are asking directly for a converged development experience. They are providing facades around those existing systems as web services, providing new interfaces via web pages and smart clients, gathering and compositing data using Office, and extending their collaboration tools like SharePoint. In fact, this is a huge discussion point when I talk to customers about BizTalk: they love the convergence upon Visual Studio as the developers don't have to learn more tool sets. They love that they don't have to manage purchasing for a disparate number of tools. They are estatic that they don't have to attempt to manage integration between a number of disparate vendor solutions.

    I haven't seen Eclipse's refactoring support, so I have to take your word that it might be better than VS's current support. But collaboration support better than Whidbey's? Have you seen a demo of VSTS? There is no comparison to any tool offering out there without trying to combine a number of vendors including Rational and Compuware. VS 2005 offers so much more than just refactoring that I am quick to reject this at face value.
  • Hi Kirk,

    Take it easy. :) Yes, I agree with you that converged development experience is very important. It is just that the Symbian developers I talk with are not there yet. The issue here is that Symbian developers are typically C++ developers specializing in optimizing for device performance (otherwise, they'd use Java already). They do not directly develop server side components.

    On the other hand, in the Windows Mobile world, many firms are developing mobile enterprise data access solutions. It is indeed important for them to have a single toolset that develops both the client and server (or proxy server) components. In the world of mobile Java, the situation is sort of in between Symbian and Windows Mobile. But like I said, there are several end-to-end IDEs already available in the Java world.

    As for the team support in Eclipse, the real point here is that Eclipse is plug-in based. So you can support pretty any feature with 3rd party plugins. Eclipse comes with very nicely integrated CVS support, which is enough for most small firms or Open Source projects. And it is free of charge. :) Flexibility and an active 3rd component market place are the strengths of Eclipse.

    But in any case, I doubt whether anyone would choose an IDE based on 1-2 features. If all your developers are trained in Java, then VS is out of the question. But if you are a microsoft shop, there is no point using Eclipse no matter how much refactoring features it has. :)
  • On the topic of developing for mobile applications; I'm attending a <a href="">"code camp"</a>, sponsored by Orange, a major mobile network provider. In countries like the UK, they have more than 20 million customers. That's a lot of customers.

    They partnered with companies like Nokia to hold this 3 day event, and it's great. It's certainly an eye-opener to what can be achieved on a mobile device.

    The best news is that these network providers are very keen to see more applications - especially those that generate traffic - developed. In this case, Orange is showing it's enthusiasm by hosting this event.

    I am for sure changing my view on application development, and it will include a big list of checkboxes under the heading "does it work on a mobile device?".

    - Riaan
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