Interview: Snapdragon and Android development

Developers are key elements of any product ecosystem – applications or services can make or break a technology. Obviously, Qualcomm is keen to strengthen developer relations….

img-snapdragon-logo-0-1.pngDevelopers are key elements of any product ecosystem – applications or services can make or break a technology. Obviously, Qualcomm is keen to strengthen developer relations….

Julian Harris: Of course – we’re always keen to improve on the excellent developer relations that we already have. We feel that we’ve built up great relationships with our developers over the years, mainly through the range of services and products that we have on offer. This is mainly through developing and distributing a number of software development kits from QDevNet that allow developers to build innovative applications and services, which in turn allows our licensees to differentiate their handsets.

A whole range of tools and resources are available on QDevNet. Out of the suite of tools are there any you would highlight?

JH: The Snapdragon SDK is a fantastic resource for developers. It really gives them a great opportunity to engage and work at the ground level whilst also giving access to exclusive API’s that we publish on Snapdragon chipsets, which allows access to functionalities that are only available to those chipsets. The Snapdragon SDK for Android now is available for select Snapdragon processors, including MSM8960 and APQ8064. Over time, it will support all Snapdragon processors; for lower-end chipsets, it will support the subset of features that are included with these chipsets.

We also have SDKs for Vuforia, our vision-based Augmented Reality (AR) platform; AllJoyn, our open-source peer-to-peer connectivity software framework; Adreno, which allows games developers and publishers to check performance and tweak the gameplay and user experience on their products; as well as Gimbal and FastCV. All of these SDKs allow developers to create and build a wide range of applications and services – not just on Snapdragon-powered devices (although these will often get an extra boost in performance or connectivity having been developed on one of our platforms) – but on a wide range of commercially-available devices today.

What’s driving interest in these particular areas? Are smartphones just getting smarter with corresponding increases in available functionality?

JH: What we’re seeing is that Android has now reached critical mass – it’s now the most popular phone OS on the market, with thousands of new handsets being activated every day, week and month. Qualcomm powers a lot of these devices – we currently supply to over 70 manufacturers who have produced more than 500 announced/commercial Snapdragon-based devices so far, 425+ of which are Android devices. As these devices become more widespread, so does the demand for greater power. Processing capabilities have increased significantly in recent years, leading to more opportunities for developers to build innovative apps and create a better experience for device users.

Things are evolving…

JH: Over the years, we’ve seen processing capacity increase many times over as the Snapdragon family evolved, from the original S1 right up to today’s quad-core powered S4 chipsets and the recently announced Snapdragon 800 and 600 processors, coming to devices in 2013. These great advances of the technology used in current devices mean that developers get even more opportunities to use the powerful hardware and software tools that are available to them.

How can developers benefit if they commit to Qualcomm, i.e. deliberately targeting functionality available on Qualcomm chips, implicitly limiting the general applicability of an app?

JH: Well first of all, they don’t need to necessarily design apps specifically for Snapdragon chipsets – many of the SDKs, including Vuforia, AllJoyn and Gimbal, are available across multiple platforms, and many of the utilised apps are already published or commercially available in the iOS App Store and Google Play.

But there are of course great benefits to working with us. Primarily, the ability to write apps to a faster processing capacity or utilise new technology which helps to enhance the functionality of the app, is a great opportunity for developers.

Due to our high market standing, Qualcomm is often at the source of conception of new handsets. Through our early involvement with upcoming devices, we can offer a unique opportunity to developers.

Qualcomm takes every opportunity to promote a developer’s app, helping to act as an extended sales network and sending out proposals to our customers to improve sales of phones and apps. The ecosystem team’s initiative is to act in part as an extended sales force, helping move applications into preferred placements in those channels. This promotion can be by selecting certain apps for pre-load opportunities with licensees, preferential placement for optimized apps in OEM app stores and operators app channels, and retail outlets e.g. bundles on consumer’s phones, which often means high conversion rates – the ‘Nirvana’ for app developers.

There is that level of depth or support behind QDevNet? It’s not just a set of links for downloading various SDKs?

JH: Yes, it is so much more than that. Qualcomm provides developers with industry-leading technologies so they can create exceptional mobile experiences, whilst also reducing development time and costs. This also means that they can reach broader markets faster, because as mentioned, Qualcomm powers a large number of devices from many OEMs.

Moreover, it is also a channel through which you can communicate with Qualcomm to help us deliver your application and promote them to our licensees through methods like those mentioned above. We also have many online forums which allow Qualcomm engineers and product managers, and other developers outside Qualcomm, to provide depth of support and assistance to developers.

We also create competitions and other initiatives to motivate developers to push themselves a bit further and create truly ground-breaking services. For example, we recently wrapped up a competition for AllJoyn developers, where the winning creators of eligible social apps, educational apps and games using our AllJoyn SDK tools are being selected to share over $170,000 in cash and prizes.

Any particular case studies you would pick out?

JH: We have a ‘Showcase‘ section on the QDevNet website dedicated to showing off the great work that our developers have done using our tools. From AllJoyn peer-to-peer connectivity apps such as Bizzabo to videoconferencing tools such as Oovoo and 3D UI kits produced using the Adreno SDK, we love to highlight the apps that developers have crafted.

What are the stats for SDK downloads and handset compatibility?

JH: We’ve seen very healthy figures for all of our SDKs. For example, Vuforia alone has 40,000+ registered developers in 130+ countries, with over 2,500 commercial apps. Our SDKs are available for the devices that consumers use most, and with Snapdragon hardware powering over 400 smartphones and tablets commercially available today, this means a great user experience for millions worldwide.

You were at London Droidcon this year. How did you find the show, and how did it compare to previous years?

JH: Yes, we’ve in fact been in attendance – in either a sponsoring or attending capacity – for quite some time, since the early days in fact! And it has definitely improved year on year – we’re seeing more developers, more quality applications, and ultimately more business opportunities, especially as there is a nowadays a greater demand and need for developers to produce really great applications.

Finally, are any particular versions of Snapdragon chipsets more functional with the SDK’s?

JH: This is completely dependent on the SDK, as some SDKs aren’t even specific to Qualcomm chipsets. For example, the Snapdragon SDK is initially available on select Snapdragon MDP devices but SDK support is planned for all future Android devices containing Qualcomm chipsets. However, feature compatibility will vary by manufacturer and device.

Our thanks to Julian for his time!

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