We’ve got a little correction to make – although this time, it’s kind of Nokia’s fault for an ambiguous choice of words. We said in a short item that the source code to Symbian had been published online by Nokia, but this is, in fact, not exactly the case. They’re not open as in open source, but open as in open for business.
Yes, it’s a tricky word, open. “We have received questions about the use of words ‘open’, ‘open source’, and about having a registration process before allowing access to the code,” Nokia writes, “As we have consistently said, Nokia is making the Symbian platform available under an alternative, open and direct model, to enable us to continue working with the remaining Japanese OEMs and the relatively small community of platform development collaborators we are already working with.”
So, it’s open for a small few? Yup.
“Through these pages we are releasing source code to these collaborators, but are not maintaining Symbian as an open source development project,” Nokia further clarifies, “Consistent with this, the Nokia Symbian License is an alternative license which provides an access to Nokia’s additional Symbian development for parties which collaborate with Nokia on the Symbian platform.”
Is this bad? Well, kind of – I mean, Symbian is on life support from now on. It’ll receive some prettification, but Nokia’s focus is Windows Phone 7. The platform still has a massive installed base, of course (in fact, larger than any other smartphone platform), but as far as futures go, Symbian doesn’t have one. As such, having up-to-date source code is vital in the long-term preservation of the platform. Let’s hope Nokia will do a code drop of what will, by then, be the final Symbian release.
I hope they post the source code in the end. I mean, everyone else does it, like Apple with OS9, Palm with BeOS, Microsoft with DOS, Amiga with… ok you get the point.
All kidding aside. I think there is a very small chance they will open source and give away Symbian. It’s giving away the platform with the largest install base of them all (in the mobile phone world). They are then potentially making for themselves their own biggest competition… It doesn’t make sense from a business perspective.
On the other hand, I’m an open source dev and actually LIKE the Symbian OS (and a lot of other embedded OS’s). So personally I hope they do. Only time will tell…