Nokia responds to my post about the Smart Installer

Just over a week ago I wrote an angry post about the problems with the Nokia Smart Installer asking Nokia to fix some outstanding issues with it and the Ovi store, specifically to:

  1. Provide sensible assistance to users who face Smart Installer problems.
  2. Fix the Smart Installer to get installation error rates down.
  3. Separate installation problems from application problems in the Ovi store comments and ratings.

I also ranted about the general clumsiness in bringing Qt to devices. Now Pekka Kosonen at Nokia has written a long response as a comment to my post, addressing some of my remarks. Firstly, I claimed that Qt is not pre-installed on devices:

Very not true. All the Symbian^3 devices have Qt preinstalled. If you want to target the 4 first S^3 devices (N8, E7-00, C6-01 and C7-00, don’t you just love the naming ;) without Qt being updated use Qt 4.6 as that’s the preinstalled version. In the FW updates and in the newest Symbian devices there will be 4.7 (both 4.6 and 4.7 versions are supported in the Qt SDK 1.1). Many of our own apps (like the newer versions of Ovi store client) also use Qt.

Okay, it is probably true that there is a version of Qt on all Symbian^3 phones. This still doesn’t explain why it is the duty of the application to update Qt. We’ve also heard stories of conflicting Qt versions causing problems for users. Can multiple versions of Qt coexist on a device?

What it comes to the success rate of smart installer it’s actually at good level but I’m not claiming it’s perfect. The installations that haven’t succeeded are mainly though from end user cancellations and running out of disk space or network errors. Of course there are cases where something just went wrong. I guess smart installer isn’t the only piece of software where that has happened.

If you want us to check out the failures in details we’d need to get the log files from smart installer…

This highlights an old issue with Symbian, that the installer (the classic installer, not the Smart Installer) doesn’t tell you exactly what went wrong. At best it gives you is one of a few generic error messages. This is a known problem when developing for Symbian, as you sometimes need to go line by line and comment out components that you suspect may cause the problem.

I absolutely believe that the majority of failed installs are disk space or network related, but since it doesn’t tell the user how will they know? It gets even worse by the Ovi store doing “silent installs” behind the store UI. This is a nice idea which is desirable when it works, but error messages must be transmitted to the UI.

If the user can’t tell why the install failed, of course they will go to the developer and complain that they spent money on a useless product.

Pekka then changes the topic to address some comments people made to my post:

As the general thinking is that Symbian is dead (actually we’ll have hundreds of guys working on it so hard to agree on the death) there may not be great deal of competition for developers. The wise guys will figure this out and have the change to make some money (would bet that the change is actually better than on the other unnamed platforms where the competition is much more tougher).

We’ll be BTW adding lots of great monetization enablers for Qt developers pretty soon, can’t tell the details here unfortunately. Also there will be improvements on the Ovi store client side that will help in the cases where currently smart installer does all the work.

Yes Symbian is not dead yet. The other day I had a Twitter discussion with a few other Symbian developers about a potential cash cow period coming for us incumbents, as few new developers are likely to start developing for Symbian, while the user base will probably grow before finally fading away. I will assume that by “monetization enablers” Pekka means in-app ads.

There have been a lot of press about an updated version of the Ovi store making the rounds, including the presently bizarrely missing update functionality, but it has yet to reach my device. Nokia needs to be faster!

As for the future of Qt (also on Nokia platforms) there definitely is one – it’s a different thing if anyone (outside Nokia) currently believes it. In Nokia we’ve chosen to take the path of not announcing new stuff until it’s actually ready (yes, we learned from our meego “crusades”). It may indicate something for you that the guys working with Qt are continuing full speed ahead. On what I can’t say now (read the previous sentence) but the road to Qt 5 (http://labs.qt.nokia.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Qt5.pdf) can give you a hint.

Personally I don’t think the future of Qt matters as much as the present. Qt is the most productive environment for Symbian, and it must be capitalised right now. There are still teething problems with Qt that must be tended to, and frankly I don’t think Nokia are acting nearly fast enough. Qt 4.8 is promising bug fixes and performance improvements, and it better deliver!

The important actions I ask Nokia to take have not been addressed, or even commented upon so I’ll rephrase them here: When will the Smart Installer be fixed so that blame is not laid upon the developer? And what will the Ovi store do about all the negative grades EVERY Qt app gets because of failed installs?

I applaud Nokia for going out there to talk to developers. Looking forward to more fruitful discussions!

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About teknolog
Mobile developer. One of the good guys.

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