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SonyEricsson cuts Linux P800 fee to zero

Cash to code, or code to cash?

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SonyEricsson hopes to mollify developers who've discovered that writing native C++ applications for the much-hyped P800 can carry a hefty fee. The move favors the savvy rather than savant: determined Linux developers should be able to get in for nothing.

Over the summer SonyEricsson has been offering a P800 Software Developer Kit which features a beta of the UIQ software development kit bundled with MetroWerks CodeWarrior - for a cool $995.

And this has proved a stumbling block for software libre developers who want to build applications on Linux. The GNUpoc project allows the Windows-based libraries to be used in the WINE environment, and with only a little bash, perl and WINE former Symbian engineer Alfred Heggestad, who maintains the project, was able to port his Commodore 64 emulator to the Nokia 9210.

"The obstacle isn't technical - it's purely price," Heggestad told us. GNUpoc doesn't support the Symbian emulator, so binaries must be debugged on the device. So this is pretty hard core.

SonyEricsson seems to have heard the angst, however. After first denying that the fee raised an unreasonable barrier to entry - it includes a year's support - SonyEricsson put us through to Ulf Wretling, who says that the UIQ SDK will within a few days be available free of charge, allowing Haggestad and other Linux developers to target the P800. (Developers will find the bundled Symbian 7.0 SDK in there too - that's only one download, not two, as we originally suggested.)

"We're opening it up," he promised. The early seeding had targeted upscale professional developers who could afford the bundle, he said.

Heggestad said he looked forward to the release of the free SDKs and didn't expect any technical issues that would prevent GNUpoc targeting the P800.

We're not sure where this leaves the CodeWarrior package: $995 still looks a steep price for the pleasure of using an integrated development environment and the emulator. By contrast, Nokia gives its SDKs away for free.

And the 'Code To Cash' competition for the P800 SonyEricsson launched yesterday has infuriated Register reader Dan Houghton, who correctly points out that far being "Code To Cash" - referring to the $3,000 worth of bounty on offer as a prize - it's more "Cash To Code". Applicants need to pay $500 for a "Basic Developer Support" fee covering all SonyEricsson technologies in order to enter.

"The launch of the P800 must be one of the more anticipated geek events in recent history," writes reader Tom Adshead (who we trust is not a thesp) reflecting the unusual level of interest in this device in our postbag.

But is SonyEricsson exploiting this? History tells us that the cheaper the tools, the more applications, so we wouldn't be surprised to see a new "lower tier" introduced at some point soon. For now, determined Linux programmers could have snagged the best deal of all. ®

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