Developers get some voice on Smartphone

Microsoft and Orange offer a way for application makers to test and certify their goods on Smartphones--just months after some developers took matters into their own hands.

Ben Charny Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Ben Charny
covers Net telephony and the cellular industry.
Ben Charny
2 min read
Microsoft and U.K.-based wireless carrier Orange on Tuesday offered an olive branch to developers creating games, ring tones and business applications for devices using the software giant's advanced cell phone operating system.

The two sides have been growing apart in the past few months, with developers complaining that Orange and Microsoft are ignoring requests for some basic development tools--including cell phones to legally test their work on.

Some developers took matters into their own hands, finding a way around the security measures inside Orange's SPV, the first commercially available cell phone based on Microsoft's Smartphone 2002 operating system, according to Paul O'Brien, Webmaster of online smart-phone developer community MoDaCo SmartPhone. MoDaCo was among the first Web sites to post instructions to "unlock" the phone so it could download software not certified by Orange.

On Tuesday, Microsoft and Orange unveiled "Mobile2Market," a legal way for developers to do the same thing. Developers also can submit their software to Orange, which will test it, certify it, and eventually offer it for sale. Microsoft said it has begun distributing a patch meant to sew closed two holes in the operating system.

"This is the opportunity (the developers) have been looking for," said Ed Suwanjindar, a Microsoft spokesman. "This is a process so they can get their wares onto the network."

Most wireless carriers sell downloadable ring tones, games or business applications that cost a few dollars a piece. Sales are particularly brisk among owners of smart phones, which have much more computing power and can play videos, take photographs and access corporate computer networks. The revenue from the applications helps offset the diving cost of making a phone call, which is still the primary source of income for any wireless carrier.

But selling downloads is a potentially risky business for carriers; the software, usually made by third-parties, may be bug-filled and could scare away customers. Certification programs like Mobile2Market are supposed to weed out the bad programs.

Suwanjindar expects that Mobile2Market will result in more than 400 new applications that carriers can sell to owners of Smartphone 2002-based phones by June.

Some developers say they are satisfied to finally have a way to legally test their work. But they are still reserving some judgment.

"I think developers would be willing to work with Orange-(Microsoft), provided we are treated properly," O'Brien wrote in an e-mail to CNET News.com. "A well-organized developer program that recognizes the needs of the bedroom developer as well as the corporate market is the only answer."