Monday, July 20, 2009

mobile development: the ugly truth

So you want to build an application for a mobile device (read: cellphone). Great! There's lots of powerful platforms out there you can start with, and port them to any other device you want with a minimum of work. Most everyone gives their SDK away for free and provide lots of forums, documentation and other sources of information to help you write your app. So you pick a platform, develop your code, test it in an emulator and everything's ready to go. Now just open up your wallet, bend over and let the fun begin...

Yes, it seems the sad truth is that for many modern devices you are *forced* to either go through a bunch of hoops to "sign" your application for one specific device (meaning 1 cell phone that you own) or pay a large sum in developer fees for the right to a certificate to sign your applications with. Otherwise either you'll never be able to install your application, or it will install and not run, or it will run with very limited "credentials" - it won't do everything you tell it to do.

For Symbian devices, the two methods developers had to get their apps signed have been Symbian Signed and Java Verified. These two services allow you to submit your application for review, upon which time you'll be shipped back your binary signed with their magic certificates for the IMEI of your device. Lovely. If I want to give my application to others I need to either self-sign it and use the few paltry credentials they let me use (internet access, possibly file access) or pay hundreds of dollars for a 1-year signed cert.

This has culminated with the creation of Symbian Horizon, a new middle-man created by Symbian in order to basically distribute your application to lots of other "app stores" automatically to "reduce developer cost". As far as I can see, i'm still paying about the same as I was before to develop the damn thing. Publishing it is a completely separate issue. I'm more than happy to provide a download URL on my own site and let people install an app themselves - it's really not difficult *if your application is signed*. I don't want to make money off people. I don't create applications for pay. I do it for myself, for fun, for freedom, and to share my work with the general public. I don't need to pay costly fees to develop for a desktop application, or a web application. Why am I forced to pay to develop for this device which i've already paid for, and am paying even more for the luxurious benefit of being able to most-of-the-time use the internet with it?

I can't believe the wool had been pulled over my eyes for so long with respect to these development practices. This is just another result of organizations like the RIAA and MPAA in their long-time battle to keep you from using the things you purchase in the way you choose. It makes me very sad to see this kind of oppression so well hidden within a system that encourages the breakdown of community and the closing-in and restricting of creative content for the sheer purpose of capitalizing on the ignorant masses.

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