Nokia To Overhaul Symbian User Interface

Time. Coming. Long. Put these in the appropriate order, and you’ll get my reaction to this news. Nokia has announced that it is planning a major overhaul of the user interface to the Symbian operating system, still the most popular smartphone platform in the world.

During the company’s annual Capital Markets Day event, Nokia made a number of forward-looking statements about the company, which were actually quite rosy. They expect their own market share to be flat next year compared to 2009, while the industry as a whole will grow by 10%. However, the average selling prices of its devices may erode less in 2010 than they did in 2009.

More interesting, though, are Nokia’s promises concerning a revamp of the Symbian user interface. In the face of competition from especially the iPhone, Symbian has turned into something of an ugly duckling, interface-wise. This is all going to change in 2010, according to Nokia.

“In 2010, we will drive user experience improvements, and the progress we make will take the Symbian user interface to a new level,” said Nokia CEO, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, “As an operating system, Symbian has reach and flexibility like no other platform, and we have measures in place to push smartphones down to new price points globally, while growing margins. I see great opportunity for Nokia to capture new growth in our industry, by creating what we expect to be the world’s biggest platform for services on the mobile.”

Two major product milestones, planned for the first and second halves of next year, are supposed to carry these improvements. From experience I know that Symbian in and of itself appears to be a fine platform, capable of fluent multitasking at very little battery expense (that was my experience with the E71, at least) – it’s just that the interface was about as comfortable as sleeping on a bed made out of broken glass and rose thorns, especially compared to the iPhone, webOS, and Android.

I’m already hearing some of you say – what about Maemo? Well, Maemo was reduced to a single bullet point in the press release, which for the rest was mostly about Symbian. “Deliver our first Maemo 6-powered mobile computer, with an iconic user experience, in the second half of 2010.”

In the end though, promises are cheap. Deliver, then we’ll talk.

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