DeviceAtlas is LIVE!

I joined dotMobi in June 2007. It’s been a big step for me, leaving M:Metrics has been a tough decision, but I felt like it was the right thing to do for me for a number of reasons.
The last 6 months have been incredibly busy and I can assure you I spent more nights up writing software than going out and have fun with friends.
Anyway I think it’s been worth, because today we are unvealing a new product called DeviceAtlas. It’s a version 1 software, but this is the result of re-starting from scratch with an idea in our minds, developed after the past experiences. We think it’s a leap forward and we are very excited about the companies and industry leaders that have decided to join us from day 1.

Take a look at it, play with it, and let us know what you think about it. dotMobi also set up a forum for this on dev.mobi.

DeviceAtlas

Every year there 1 single event that every company in the mobile space wait for. New services are announced, hardware vendors easily announce 5 to 10 new devices each and journalists eagerly look for some groundbreaking news. It’s the Mobile World Congress (formerly known as 3GSM).

Well, we want to do the same and I think we are going to make it big. It’s going to be that kind of service that if you’re a developer and you’ve been pulling your hair because you can’t get something going for a mobile device, you will be very happy to get.
dotMobi has been keen on providing great tools for developers to make sure they would make their life easier. Well DeviceAtlas is no less!

Stay tuned because it’s coming and it’s running fast!

Can you guess the URL?

J2ME device features recognition

Manufacturers of mobile devices and operators are not always good at providing device descriptions. When they are kind enough to provide them, they often provide them the way they like it. Sometimes it’s a webpage, sometimes is a PDF, sometimes a spreadsheet. Nothing bad, but they are all in a different format and most likely provide different info using different metrics and level of detail.

For these reasons, a number of J2ME applications have appeared to try to track device capabilities and try to put them all in the same grid in the same format.
Going back to my memory, I think the first of this kind that I saw was JBenchmark. It’s been around for a long time and certainly lists A LOT of devices, probably the site and resource with the highest number of J2ME devices. It’s amazing how many devices were tested and how many features. It checks for MIDP 1.0, MIDP 2.0, 3D, audio features and more. Device features are sometimes in integer numbers (such as screensize), boolean (library support) and “stars”. Yes, stars, which means that the feature in question has a vote about it’s performance. Votes range from 0 to 5. This is very good if you want to know which device is better.
The bad part is that you don’t know the real results of the tests. Since they are shown as stars, you will not know the real results.
The software is not open-source, as far as I know, and this means that nobody except for the JBenchmark team, knows for real what it’s measuring and how.
Data is provided by users. Kind people that downloads the MIDlet, runs it and uploads the data to the server (automatic). All results and balanced and the final result is an average of all the results received from users. Quite a good idea, I think.

Next comes to my mind TastePhone. It’s an open-source MIDlet developed by a very good French student. He developed it for a school project, but then kept it going on his own. Really nice MIDlet. The concept is the same as the one from JBenchmark, you download it, run it and upload the results on the main server. The pros are that the MIDlet is open-source and all the results are available from a web page. The cons are that the development stopped a couple of years ago and while the server is still up and running and receiving updates of data from time to time, the development of the software hasn’t had any progress. This was a very good start, would have been good to see it progressing, even as part of other projects.

J2ME Polish has been running for years now. In two words, it’s an open-source framework to develop J2ME MIDlets running on a lot of devices (hopefully ALL). Part of the project is, obviously, to collect device descriptions to be able to optimize MIDlet builds to single devices or device clusters.
Originally developed by Grimo Software, J2ME Polish included SysInfo into its standard release.
Just like TastePhone and JBenchmark, SysInfo is a tiny MIDlet that you download and run on your device and it tests for capabilities. You later see a report and can provide the data to J2ME Polish (or keep it secret if you are so selfish!).
The MIDlet hasn’t seen much development in a long time now and does not provide the ability to upload the results to a central server.
As far as I know, a lot of work is supposed to happen, but I have seen no updates in more than 1 year now. Too bad! (browse CVS here)

So the reason why I originally thought about writing this article is because I found a new kid on the block. All the above softwares have been around for quite some time. A few days ago (I would say a couple of weeks) I stumbled on this site called Mobile Zoo. The site provides a MIDlet that you can download on your device, run it and it uploads the results to the central server.
I downloaded both the MIDP 1.0 and MIDP 2.0 version on an old Nokia 3120. MIDP 2.0 did not even start (as expected), MIDP 1.0 ran for a few seconds (5-10 I’d say) and then started trying to upload the results to the server. Unfortunately the upload never worked. I checked the configuration and it is supposed to be correct. Too bad it did not work.
Apparently, according to the site statistics, they have a lot of contributions and recorded a lot of “device DNA’s”, as they call them.
As per JBenchmark, the MIDlet is not open-source, but the data that is collected is pretty standard, and don’t need much comparison as with the “star-system” of JBenchmark.
I am not a J2ME developer, but I have to admit that I had never seen this site and I had never heard of DSEI, the company behind it.
They apparently provide API’s to developers. If you have any experience with it and would like to share it, you’re welcome.

MobileResearch in the news

It looks like MobileResearch (a startup company?) has gotten quite some good friends on the net. They are presented as

“the first commercially available solution that provides mobile developers and content publishers the data they need to address the problems associated with mobile device fragmentation”

on their site, here, here and probably on many other sites.
They certainly have a great marketing team and I’m happy to see that more and more people realize that knowing what a device can do is really important.
I am not saying that WURFL is better (or worse) than their product, I haven’t seen it. The good thing and probably their advantage over WURFL is that it’s specifically targeted for the US market (but it looks like they will deliver something for the European market later this year) and WURFL hasn’t had that many contributions from the US market. We have recently (the last 2-3 months) started receiving contributions from the US, this means that they are eventually understanding and feeling the need for such database.
I am sure the guys at MobileResearch have worked and ARE working hard on their project, but you will all agree with me that it’s a great marketing-ONLY statment the fact they are the first… It’s true that WURFL is NOT a commercial product, IT IS FREE! On the other side it is also true that there are other really valuable and EXPERIENCED companies offering similar products. The question is:”Are they as well trained and are they targeted to the US market?” Maybe they have worked hard on the GSM/European market and don’t have much information about US devices. Audiovox devices are not being sold in Europe. There are many devices from Sharp and Sanyo being sold in USA only. Danger is another one, and I could list more.

I just wonder how much marketing is behind this software and how much “substance” is behind the product.

Knowing that more people is working on something like WURFL just confirms the value of the project and seeing that they ask you almost 30.000,00 USD makes me understand the monetary value of WURFL.

I wonder were WURFL could go if people donated some money or time or resources.

PS: while writing this post I noticed they are also putting banners on Google.