.NET Compact Framework on Symbian

Tue, June 27, 2006, 03:18 PM under MobileAndEmbedded
Some people are asking about NETCF on Symbian. This makes me smile.

You see, every now and then, someone will bring out a Nokia phone and show me some end user feature and ask me how to achieve the same on a Windows Mobile device following it with a rant about how Symbian devices are dominant in the market compared to WM devices. My response is always the same. Yes, at the moment, Symbian is the dominant mobile OS when it comes to number of end user devices out there (not so sure in the enterprise/corporate world). However, from a developer perspective, that is completely irrelevant! Ask not how many devices are out there, ask how many of them are running an app that did not ship with the device. In other words, ask what percentage of Symbian devices compared to WM devices are running a 3rd party application that the user installed themselves. Windows Mobile *is* the dominant OS when you ask the right question and it is kind of expectant really: Every windows developer is a potential WM developer. The platform itself is built with running 3rd party apps in mind.

So going back to the original question, it shouldn't surprise us that it is being posed. An unfortunate developer has been asked by a decision maker to target a Symbian device and naturally the developer wants to use a modern, RAD and powerful platform.

The best development tool for all your needs is of course Visual Studio. To that end, there is an add-in for Visual Studio that allows targeting non-WM devices BUT note that this does not use the NETCF on the target - it is just a tool thing.

The best development runtime/framework of course is the .NET Compact Framework (ok, so I may be slightly biased :-)). When I was at MEDC a South African guy (Dusan Babich) approached me with some brochures and interesting ideas about porting the NETCF to a subset of Symbian devices. He didn't have a demo to show at the time but he said they were very close to releasing. I am not sure how far it got but this is their website should you wish to follow up.

I also found this excellent paper on porting the NETCF to Symbian phones. Just to keep the balance, here is an article on porting Symbian apps to Windows Mobile SmartPhones.

So there you have it. A slightly lengthier reply than what I had in mind originally but it is good to have context, right? To wrap it up, my advice is to target the Windows Mobile platform that gives you a versatile range of devices with a common API (and the story will get even better with future versions of SmartPhone and PPC form factors converging, I would imagine). If I am perfectly honest, I am not sure WM will win the consumer market tomorrow, but it is definitely slashing into the enterprise space right now and once it is done there, more of an end user focus should follow, in my opinion.
Monday, October 20, 2008 5:25:00 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
2 years since your post and Windows Mobile is still "horrible" to use. Comments by a couple of friends very recently (they don't know each other) who have experience of WM devices, not myself. I'm a .NET developer myself. It's a shame there's no equivalent of Mono for mobile devices yet. I'd love to see it on Symbian devices.
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