Nokia plans new software developer program

After attracting more than a million software developers to create applications for mobile phones, Nokia Corp. plans a new program to offer development tools and technical information to those programmers who are demanding more -- and are willing to pay.

Under the new program, the world's largest mobile phone maker will essentially organize software developers into tiers based on their needs and willingness to pay for additional software development services, said Lee Epting, vice president of developer operations at Forum Nokia, the group in charge of coordinating the efforts of more than 1.3 million software developers creating applications for Nokia handsets.

Nokia plans to announce the new software developer initiative "soon," Epting said. Epting declined to confirm an exact date but the 3GSM World Conference, slated to take place from Feb. 23 - Feb. 26 in Cannes, France, seems a likely launch pad.

The move to establish levels of access to its Forum Nokia software developer Web site comes in response to programmers, on the one hand, asking for greater and quicker access to software development tool kits, documentation and other support services and Nokia, on the other, wanting to make its growing software development program more effective and cost efficient, according to Epting.

"Developers are asking us for more and more tools and other services, but we can't continue doing everything for free," she said. "Certain things have an inherent cost. We know that many developers are willing to pay for this."

Epting declined to provide pricing details of the new program.

While conceding that every developer is important to Nokia and acknowledging that the forum's Web site will continue to provide plenty of tools and information for free, Epting said the time has come for the company to offer a "value proposition" to those willing to pay for additional support.

"We want to establish a more streamlined process of working with key developers," she said. Such a process, she added, will help Nokia not only drive the development of cutting-edge applications, but also ensure a sustainable and profitable business for those making a major contribution.

Without specifying exactly what developers will receive for their money, Epting said one offering could be a bundled service, including information on support-related incidents and even a development kit complete with terminal and software "to get developers moving fast."

Currently, Nokia provides a wide range of documentation and software tools, such as APIs (application programming interfaces), for three distinct user interface platforms: the mass-market Series 40, the smart phone Series 60 and the new multimedia Series 90.

In addition to its new software developer program, Nokia is also a driving force behind efforts to launch the Unified Testing Initiative (UTI), according to Epting. The initiative, whose supporters include Sun Microsystems Inc., Siemens AG and Motorola Inc., aims to simplify the certification process for Java-based applications.

"Today, Java application developers have to run their applications through multiple vendor and carrier testing programs; this is expensive and inefficient," Epting said. Under the scheme, applications will go through only one series of tests with handset manufacturers at designated certification centers and another scaled-down test with carriers, she said.

Epting declined to confirm when the initiative would launch, saying only that the test centers are already assigned and the processes defined.

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