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Chatting with HTCDev...

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Posted

HTCDev.png
At DroidCon last week I was fortunate to sit down and spend some time with a couple of guys from HTCDev, HTC's recently launched initiative designed to help developers make the most of HTC's products. I chatted to them about how the launch has progressed and it seems they are pretty happy with the response - a ton of traffic from over 200 countries with visits split between their bootloader unlock site, their kernel download pages and of course their developer SDK pages.

One aspect of HTCDev that is of particular interest is the support that HTC are giving developers to help implement HTC specific features in their applications. This is split primarily into 3 key areas.

The first is Pen support. The HTC Flyer and the recently launched HTC Jetstream (in the US) support pen based input (something that's pretty unique still amongst tablets) and while simple pen support can be implemented very easily, HTC have a Pen API to assist in making the most of the additional features unique to those devices. The n-trig digitiser used on the devices is very powerful, so it'd be great to see some apps really taking advantage of it. As well as publicising the HTCdev programme, the team are also actively inviting developers with pen suitable apps to contact them about adding support... so if that's you, or you use an app you think would benefit, you should get in touch! I had assumed that the bulk of the pen support would be limited to Honeycomb, but actually there is backward compatibility for Gingerbread too.

The second area is 3D support. The HTC Evo 3D has launched in both the US and Europe and is one of only two mainstream handsets (alongside the LG Optimus 3D) to support a 3D display. Again, HTC have a 3D API for developers to help exploit the device, and I think we're going to see a lot of applications adding support going forward, not just games, but other potential applications too. While of course they couldn't comment on future products, I very much doubt the Evo 3D will be their only 3D handset, so getting in now could be getting in ahead of the curve... particularly as I get the impression adding 3D support is actually pretty straightforward.

Finally, HTCDev offer 'common controls'. The idea behind common controls is that developers can create apps that integrate into the Sense look and feel. For example, if you've used Sense, you'll be familiar with the 'tab plus control' sliding bottom bar that appears in a lot of their apps... the common controls let you implement the same UI in your own apps too.

I talked to the team a little bit about what they had planned for the future and while they were understandably somewhat coy, it's clear that HTC is fully behind HTCDev and planning to expand it in the future. At the moment the programme is based out of the US, but there are plans to add local offices (such as the UK) going forward. While the activity at the moment is more 'code related', it will grow to include distribution (such as in China where Android Market sales are more limited - HTC have a solution via 'HTC Hub'). I know that one of the pain points for developers is testing on devices, so I put this to the guys - it seems the concept of virtual labs is being discussed, as well as loan / test devices for developers when appropriate.

For a new group within the HTC organisation, it seems one thing is key - HTCdev want to listen to the developers and give them what they want. So, developers, how can they help?

P

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Am I right in thinking the HTC 3D API is very similar to the LG 3D API except they're under proprietary package-names so totally incompatible. I think most devs would steer clear of proprietary APIs unless they have a really good reason. So it would be better if HTC were to form consortium's with the other manufacturers to create universal standards.

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