Dublin, Ireland
+353 87 41 86 742

Death Of The Bedroom Coder

How Do I get my Symbian OS Application Signed?

The Symbian ecosystem has to date provided me with my career. I have spent most of my working life coding with Symbian, either writing 3rd party applications or working on the OS it's self. For my sins I actually enjoy it, which what makes this development even more depressing for me.

I write this to help highlight an issue, I hope that something can be done about this to help rectify the situation and help grow the ecosystem. A healthy ecosystem means more developers who deal with Symbian, and more opportunities for employment. Restricting 3rd party developers with the enforced signing of applications and the imposition of the Symbian signing tax means reducing the number of 3rd party developers and hence reduces the opportunities for further employment. In addition as the mobile phone market continues to expand and the phone eventually becomes an IP terminal the scope for a new 'killer app' will arise. But by introducing this tax, and eliminating the home grown coders will actually reducing the creativity and experimentation on the platform, reducing the chances that the next 'killer app' will be on a Symbian device. As a symbian developer this is the last thing I'd like to see.

Ok, so I've written this cool little application for my old Symbian 8.1a based phone, the Nokia 6630, it runs Series 60 v2. I think the application is really handy. Among the really cool things it does it gets the current cell id.

This application has been fun to write and quite handy, so I  would like to release it maybe some others would find it useful? And if I can sell it for about £2 I'd be happy, this time of year everything helps towards the Christmas spending spree. 🙂

But the 6630 is a bit old, so last week I got myself a new Nokia E50, nice, new, and importantly running Symbian 9 with the new PlatSec stuff.

I downloaded the Series 60 v 3 SDK (sorry S60 v3), and spent the time porting over my application, some of the API's had changed, but it was more or less straight forward. So it's running fine on the emulator on my home PC, now I want to put it on my phone. And this is where all the problems start. My application apparently needs NetworkServices. This should be available to all developers as the user should be able to grant these on installation of the sis file [3]. So I build my app with this capability, use createsis create my_package.pkg and create my application. However the phone rejects the installation of the application! Says it couldn't grant the application the permissions it needed.

So a quick read of the Symbian Signed web site shows I need a Dev Cert. Umm ok. This also suggests that to distribute my application I will need to have it signed. So I had a quick read of the Symbian Signed web site to check out what would be involved in that.

Symbian signed [1] tells me I need to get a verisign publisher certificate, ohh kay. Quick check of the verisign web site [2] shows that they are having a sale.. (ahh, so I have to pay for this publisher certificate.. no problem) brilliant, $50 off so it now only costs $350. Otch. That's a lot of money for my one small application. But let's see if I can make a few more applications it might be worth it. - Except, that publisher ID will only be valid for 1 year.... Ow... Well spread out over a number of applications that figure should reduce, let's say that's a $35 charge on each application I produce, if I can produce 10 applications in 12 months, that's about one application every 4 & 1/2 weeks, that's tough going for one person in a full time job, let alone as a bedroom coder!

Further reading of the Symbian Signed web site shows [1] that "When applying for the ACS Publisher ID you must provide a technical contact and the contact details of one other member of your organization. Both of your selected contacts will be contacted during the verifying process, and hence should be informed that they have been nominated. " Ahh well there is only me. I wonder if it would be ok to just put my name down twice?

Ok so once I get a publisher certificate I need to submit my application for testing before I get it signed. The Symbian Signed website lists a number of test houses I can use [5], these are Capgemini who will charge me $560, and if I need to resubmit another $280. MphasiS who will charge me €185 for my first submission, plus another €40 to actually get it signed, so that's €225, which seems a bit cheaper, assuming of course I don't need to resubmit my application for testing.. fingers crossed it passes first time. Last on the list of test houses is NSTL who will charge me €250 for any test.

Ok so the total bill for my little application to reach an audience would be :

Publisher Cert : $350 ~ £185

Cheapest Test : €225 ~ £150

Total Cost of : £335

That's £335 assuming I pass my test house test first time and don't need to resubmit. Now let's say I want to put my application up on Handango. [6] Handango take 40% of what you charge, so out of that £2 I would probably see about £1.20. This would mean that I would need to sell about 280 copies of application just to break even. Wow I don't even know if my application would be that popular!

There is an alternative, I could release my application as Freeware [4], but then I wouldn't see any return in the work I put into my application in the first place.

It really must be the death of the bedroom coder.


[1] https://www.symbiansigned.com/how_do_I_get_my_application_signed.pdf

[2] http://www.verisign.com/products-services/security-services/code-signing/symbian-content-signing/index.html

[3] https://www.symbiansigned.com/Developer_Certificate_FAQ_v2.0.pdf

[4] https://www.symbiansigned.com/app/page/dev/submitFreeware

[5] https://www.symbiansigned.com/app/page/overview/testhouses

[6] http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/10/31/handango_kicks_omnisoft/

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    I agree, mobile phone business is still growing and the need for more and better apps is still a good prospect.

Leave a Reply