Symbian has had a bit of a string of bad news lately, but starting today, things might just start looking up again. Major changes have been announced with regards to the Symbian Foundation and Nokia’s involvement with the platform, which all basically come down to this: Nokia is taking over development of the platform, while the Foundation focusses on licensing.
Up until now, the Foundation was responsible for developing the Symbian platform, but with the recent news that both Samsung and Sony Ericsson are winding down their Symbian line of smartphones, and thus will become less involved with the foundation, it only seems to make sense that the (by far) largest Symbian player take over development. The Foundation will now focus on licensing.
Following a strategy review, the board of the Symbian Foundation has today decided to transition the role of the non-profit organisation. The foundation will become a legal entity responsible for licensing software and other intellectual property, such as the Symbian trademark. Nokia has committed to make the future development of the Symbian platform available to the ecosystem via an alternative direct and open model.
Interesting changes, but if a recent article by Tim Ocock, former Symbian consortium employee, it might not be the best idea to hand over development of Symbian to Nokia. Ocock describes the way Symbian development took place over the years, and the picture isn’t particularly flattering.
“The real root of the development problem with Symbian, was that the APIs and tools roadmap were driven by the needs of kernel engineers and system integrators,” he details, “It was not unusual to hear it spoken by senior staff that there would never be a market for after-market apps and games, so why support third party developers?”
“‘Easy API’ projects, to make phonecalls or send messages in less than 20 lines of code, were started and never finished. The Psion OPL language was briefly resurrected, as its BASIC like syntax had led to a thriving third party apps ecosystem on the original Series 5. A suggestion to extend Java beyond the usability constraints and limited API of J2ME was shot down without a second thought,” he continues, “Each died quickly, Symbian’s engineering department forbidden to put resources on activities not authorised by product management. In turn, unlike at Palm, or Android today, there was no product manager representing the needs of third party developers.”
If Nokia approaches development like this once more, then Symbian won’t crawl out of the dark place it is in now. The key – as far as I see it – is Qt, and it seems like Nokia has seen the light there.
Uh, it seems that the best place to control the development of Symbian is the company that stands almost completely alone in both 1) paying for the development and 2) using the OS.
Thanks for the Ocock article reference anyway, it’s a pretty accurate review of the history of Symbian. Nokia’s approach to developer ecosystem has completely changed over time (basically after Qt came around). It used to be “We know Symbian C++ development is terrible, deal with it, it’s profitable anyway” but now developer efficiency and powerful tools are seen to be critically important. It pretty much has to be since now developers can vote with their feet if they think you suck.
The fruits of that work will mostly be seen throughout 2011.
I dont have much working experience on Symbian phones but I have some friends that really like it.
I’m perplexed on why it has become so unfashionable so quickly.
On usability what would Symbian(Nokia) have to do to catch up to Android and Apples IOS?
Or has Symbian got some unfair treatment?
Edited 2010-11-08 21:14 UTC