Why Symbian Signed must die

With the latest S60 “3rd Edition” phones (such as the N95, N81 etc), Nokia in their infinite wisdom, has decided for us that we users don’t want to install “freeware” apps any more. These phones now require all apps to be “signed” – they don’t give the option to the user to install an unsigned app.

Nokia says this is supposed to protect users from “bad” apps. So what is the result? Freeware developers now release “unsigned” versions of their apps and provide step-by-step instructions for users on how to get their own “developer” cert and sign the app themselves.

See the irony yet? Nokia told us that users wanted to be “protected” from “bad” apps, yet what we really see is users going to the trouble of acting like “developers” so they can sign these “bad” apps and get them installed on their phone. They clearly want freeware, whether it’s officially “approved” by Nokia’s “Symbian Signed” or not.

And with all these pseudo-developers requesting certs so they can install these “bad” apps, guess what? Nokia’s certificate creation site “Symbian Signed” can’t handle the load. It has been mostly down for weeks. Here’s what it says today:

Not to mention all the support costs for Nokia and the overall costs to the entire ecosystem (where about 90% of S60 3rd edition discussion seems to be about signing and certs). Hopefully Nokia will wake up and put an end to this ridiculous nightmare soon. Here’s a few reasons why the time has come for enabling users to install unsigned apps on their 3rd edition phones, just like they can on 1st and 2nd edition phones:

  • The overhead of depending on Symbian Signed for signing promotes bug-ridden software that is never updated.
  • It is destroying the Symbian third-party ecosystem (which is where all the best Symbian software has always come from)
  • It leaves the door open for competitors like Apple, Microsoft, RIM, etc. and dilutes Nokia’s significant lead in third-party developer support.
  • If plain users, through step-by-step guides, are signing apps, there is really no argument for the “all apps must be signed” restriction

The signing debacle is nothing new, but the prolonged downtime of Symbian Signed is.

Nokia, please. It’s time to close the door on the the Symbian Signed experiment and let us install the apps we want on our phones again.

UPDATE: Monday February 18, 2008:

Today the site says:

Note their words “huge demand for developer certificates”. Nokia doesn’t that tell you something? And by the way, it is Monday February 18, folks, and the ability to get certs is still down.

UPDATE: Weds Feb 20 the saga continues:

So now it looks like end-users and hobby developers cannot get certificates at all, meaning they cannot write code or experiment with freeware on their Symbian S60 3rd edition phones anymore. I cannot tell from the above message whether this the new permanent policy or just more “damage control”.

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