|Evan Sohn is President of Logix, Inc., a PDA software development
firm that writes applications for sales force automation and field
applications. Logix developed the Accutrade stock quotation application
for the Zaurus and various handheld applications for Abbott Labs,
SmithKline Beecham, and Becton Dickinson.
Let?s start with you. What is your software development background?
I?m the president of Logix, Inc. Logix has been in the mobile
computing industry for over seven years now. We got into this
with the intention of marketing medical applications on handheld
computers. We started to program on the Sharp Wizard 7000.
How did you start developing for the Sharp Zaurus?
Since 1989, we have been developing for handheld computers. In
a little over seven years, we have worked on eight devices. We
have migrated from platform to platform, such as the HP-100LX
and 200LX, OmniGo, and Apple Newton.
What kind of applications does Logix write for the Zaurus?
We are automating pharmaceutical and consumer goods sales forces.
Rather than doing their call reporting and product sampling, they
are collecting that data and communicating it on a PDA. We are
also developing wireless applications.
Are you primarily developing for vertical or horizontal markets?
Our biggest focus is on vertical markets. From our perspective,
that is the initial audience for this technology. Enough vertical
markets spawn a market for horizontal applications. This is really
the trend in the entire industry.
Do you provide software to both third parties and companies for
We really have a good separation between the two. We have our
own applications, specifically in sales automation. We tailor
that, customize it, modify it, and integrate it into other people?s
back end systems for a number of third parties. We have also developed
applications for specific markets for other companies.
How is developing Sharp Zaurus applications different from developing
The main difference is the platform itself. The Sharp OS has been
optimized for mobile computing with very good data storage, power
management, communications, etc. This comes with the added burden
of it not being as common as other operating systems, such as
Windows. Where it is more difficult to develop applications, the
philosophy is that you select the tool most appropriate to the
job, not necessarily the one that is easiest to develop for. That
helps insure the success of the project.
What do you find most challenging about Zaurus development?
I would have to say since it?s a hardware-based application system,
in order to really debug applications, there is no real-time software
debugger. In order to find a problem you have to, of course, compile
the application, then download it into the memory of the Zaurus
and execute it to find the bugs. There is really no equivalent
of a step compiler.
What we have developed is a suite of libraries of various functions
that really facilitate our application development. We have a
number of programmers that use those tools to create other applications.
Do you find the object orientation of Zaurus? Synergy OS carries
over to all of your applications?
Sure. When we hire programmers, we look for people with experience
in object-oriented programming. From an object-oriented programming
point of view, the Zaurus OS is just great.
You mentioned libraries. Do you apply any methodology or CASE
We use the Source Safe system for version control and we also
use it to control the libraries. That?s very important. For example,
without controls, we?d make a change to the libraries to add a
function and it could spread to other apps that use that function.
How do you like Sharp?s support for your development efforts?
Sharp has been very supportive throughout the years. We could
not have come this far without their support. Given the speed
with which that technology is being created, it is a monumental
effort on everybody?s part to be up-to-date with technical and
developer support. Sharp has bent over backwards to ensure that
we are provided with all the necessary information to support
the applications we develop.
How long does a typical application development cycle take?
I would have to say it depends on the application itself and how
similar it is to our existing applications. Something for sales
automation takes a much shorter time than something developed
from scratch. However, given our seven years in developing applications,
most applications are really quite similar; you are gathering
information in a database or communicating that information to
somebody and maybe doing some kind of algorithmic processing along
the way to calculate something. Now to answer the question, the
typical application usually is a three or four month project,
depending on the complexity.
Why don?t we see the kind of third party and public domain support
for the Zaurus that we see for Newton?
Because Sharp has chosen to take a different path than Apple.
I think Sharp is eager to preserve the quality of the applications
that are developed on their platform. Thus, one might call it
a closed architecture, and others might call it selective instead.
What would you say to a would-be Zaurus developer?
A very good question. The most important thing I would tell anybody
is that it takes a commitment to long-term development. Technologies
change and new platforms emerge onto the market place. We have
seen a lot of people come and go who have tried to develop a single
application. You really have to be committed to it.
Sharp is so customer focused. Let?s say they put in TCP/IP support
in the next Zaurus. Sharp could come out with a unit that would
make our current application obsolete. Sharp is interested in
giving their target customer what they need, so developers have
to be ready to spend the extra time to rework an application.