Nokia taking Symbian development back in house, Foundation remains to control licensing and patents

| November 8, 2010 | Reply

 

As mentioned before in the press release Jay posted, and has been rumored in the blogosphere for quite a while, it seems that Nokia and the Symbian board have taken a decisive step towards improving the Symbian OS, speeding up time to market, improving developer and OEM relations and at the same time cut out some of the bureaucracy that has held Symbian development up for so long. This move was hinted at when Lee Williams stepped down from the Symbian Foundation as executive director and was replaced by Tim Holbrow (former CFO) with rumors circling that winding down operations would commence imminently.  It seems that such a guess was not far off the mark.

I’m certain that a large percentage of people in the blogosphere are now shouting at the top of their voices that Symbian is dead, Nokia is down the toilet and are doomed and that Symbian has no place in the smartphone market (Engadget commenters are truly  remarkable no?). But I’d have to respectfully say that they are patently wrong. Below I’ll outline a few of the reasons why this change has happened and what the future may/may not hold for Symbian development in light of current news.

One of the most telling statements concerning Symbian development were the announcements of Sony Ericsson (SE) and Samsung, that they were discontinuing Symbian development and had no plans for the continued support and/or production of Symbian devices. Looking at those two announcements in a vacuum one might be inclined to think that two of the three major OEM  supporters and Foundation contributors (not dissing Fujitsu here) had withdrawn from an OS that was seemingly about to fail miserably.

Looking at the situation in context however, yields a starkly different story. Having tracked code package submissions to the Symbian Foundation from the fledgling days of S^2 & S^3, I’d yet to see any significant contributions of code by either company. While that’s not to say they didn’t provide any monetary support, the fact that the entire idea of the foundation was to distribute work amongst large companies with significant resources in the hope of faster iterating the OS than any single company could possibly achieve. Unfortunately for the Symbian Foundation, this was not to be, and Nokia has and will continue to contribute the VAST majority of the code.

 

 

 

Worse still, Android came along whereby OEM’s could get a free ride in essence, contributing little if any code, little if any monetary support while getting an OS that they could basically flash onto the base hardware provided by Qualcomm and run with it. While that’s not to say that this is a “bad” approach, in some ways it leaves the OEM’s at the mercy of Google’s whim and provides no real benefit, in the long term at least, for OEM’s looking to differentiate, grow profits significantly and control their own fates.

 

Android also had the benefit of provided an app store that integrated directly into the OS in the form of Android Marketplace, something that Symbian had categorically lacked before 2008. When Nokia came out with the Ovi Store in 2009, it became clearer still to all OEM’s involved with Symbian that not only could they not compete with Nokia in terms of hardware costs, reliability and scale, but they also couldn’t compete in terms of value added services to Symbian OS.  Worse still, Symbian Horizon, which would have been the go-to application repository for Symbian applications for all OEM’s, failed spectacularly leaving Samsung and SE high and dry with regards to added services, through no fault of the Symbian Foundation of course.

NB. Symbian in it’s base implementation comes without mapping applications and application stores

 

Having realized that there would be no financial benefit in sticking around, both companies decided to jump ship to an OS where all the work was done for them and they simply needed to toss an OS on some hardware and meet some nebulous requirements concerning the use of Google services and market and they’d be just peachy.

 

 

The second most telling statement made was by Nokia where they said that they had no intentions of sticking to the large-scale generational changes to the Symbian platform formerly known as S^3, S^4.x , S^5 etc and that they would be sticking to continuous, smaller scale improvements to what they would call “Symbian” with most recent devices getting the changes initially slated for the generational S^4 release. Furthermore, they publicly stated that Symbian development would give way to Qt development, in essence both dog-fooding and relegation of Symbian C++ to legacy status.

In hindsight, these events in addition to the rapid pace of development of both software and hardware in the mobile sphere has led to the predicament the Foundation has faced, and thusly the decision made in the conference call and board meetings today.

 

 

 

On the bright side of course, SEE2010 begins tomorrow with the MeeGo conference slated for the following week. Here’s to hoping for at least SOME positive news and seeing positive strides being taken in both domains.  Keep your browsers pointed here for more news on both Expos in coming days.

 

Tags:

Category: 3rd edition, 5th Edition, Android, Aquisitions, Convergence, MNB, Nokia, OVI, Press Release, Rant, S60, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Symbian, Symbian^3

About the Author ()

So you've read something I've written. yay!! As you already know, my name is Andre and I'm currently a student based in Atlanta. Much like Jay, I pretty much blog here in my free time. Follow me on twitter @andre1989 or contact me directly at Andre(at)mynokiablog(dot)com. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or suggestions.

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  1. Jay Montano says:

    Excellent post Andre.

    When exactly is the transition from S^3 naming to just Symbian supposed to occur?

    • Andre says:

      From now until. They will no longer internally or externally refer to Symbian as anything else. No Symbian^3 and Symbian^4, just Symbian.

      Of course it’s a little nebulous as to what features each device will receive. Provided of course they indicate when there are major updates AND they support each successful device for up to 18 months it’s fine by me

  2. alex68 says:

    I asked an old friend who is a Symbian low level engineer at Nokia about the full QT UI support for current Symbian 3. Nokia will modify and support the old Akvon interface and the evolution will take about 2 years even when a full QT UI is implemented for Symbian 3. QT quick is fast and efficient. There will be no significant efficiency issues in terms of memory and cpu requirement for a full QT support in Symbian 3.

    Nokia had 3 symbian teams before. Now some Symbian people have moved to QT UI team as all the UI development has moved to QT quick and HTML 5. Symbian will be under heavy UI overhaul and revamp for sure.

    • Jim says:

      so we need to wait for 2 years for a new Symbian UI? or they will support avkon for the next 2 years, but a new UI created in Qt may appear sooner. I think the new UI will be done in qt quick .

      • alex68 says:

        A full QT UI support is scheduled h1 of next year already and Avkon will evolve for 2 years and likely will be support 3-4 years at least.

        • Rant says:

          Well, that sounds like crap. Perhaps I don’t understand, but isn’t Avkon the tired old UI that has become so synonymous with the tired look of Symbian?

          And now they are contuining the use of it? Or is it a new development under the same name.

          Anyway, as long as some long wanted eyecandy arrives next year it will be sufficient.

          • alex68 says:

            If Nokia simply remove the support of Avkon, it creates a big fragmentation problem and cause big application compatibility issues. It buys time for Symbian applications to evolve to QT platform, to my understanding.

            Applications always need time to develop and evolve.

          • Average Joe says:

            If it’s just for compatibility purposes, then I don’t see a problem with keeping Avkon around for non-Qt apps. Windows 7 x86 is still compatible with Windows 3.0, and this has nothing to do with the look of new Windows applications. Dropping Avkon would mean that all non-Qt apps had to be rewritten (e.g. Google Maps) and some developers could get the impression that investing in Symbian isn’t wise for the long term.

        • Cod3rror says:

          Why support AVKON? just kill it already.

          If Nokia moves everything to Qt in 2011 H1, why the need for AVKON?

        • Jim says:

          I found avkon good only for non-touch devices. Probably this is their intention . The new qt UI will be only for touch devices. do you know anything about this?

        • Cod3rror says:

          Alex, disregard, my previous question please, didn’t refresh and see that you already answered it.

          Anyway, here’s my other question(two questions actually), if Nokia is keeping AVKON for the compatibility of all applications but moving all the UI to Qt and updating it, how will those old Qt applications look and work?

          I hope Nokia lets the devs code only in Qt, no more other frameworks.

          • Jim says:

            current qt apps require avkon in case you want to use native widgets.
            That’s why they come up with qt quick. this way you can create your app they way you want. you can give any shape or color to your buttons and so on. probably the new UI will be based on qt quick, and they’ll probably use qt components(currently designed for meego)

          • alex68 says:

            Sorry, I didn’t notice your this question before.

            I don’t know the exact answer (as I don’t work for Nokia, not even in mobile industry) even I have some answers in my mind to my understanding.

            But I can ask someone who knows this matter. I will answer you later when I know it.

        • Cod3rror says:

          Also, if they will be developing AVKON, why does this article say that, they’ll be stopping all other framework development other than Qt?

          http://blogs.forum.nokia.com/blog/nokia-developer-news

          • alex68 says:

            My info was at least 2 weeks old. Nokia might come up with new ideas or decisions again. I’d discuss it soon with someone.

  3. Rant says:

    I sincerly hope that Nokia clears some things up at SEE tomorrow. If not, than they just really missed an opportunity to regain the faith in Symbian.
    With all the changes going on, on so many levels it is hard to understand in what direction Symbian is going.

    I’m hoping that they’ll share some screenshots about upcoming UI decisions and hear about how they are seeing the future with Symbian, preferablly the near future.

  4. GordonH says:

    AVKON development tools gives excess to almost every aspect of the smartphone, but was complicated to develop both complicated and simple apps.
    QT makes things easier for symbian and cross platform development … QT already has many satisfied developers and big named software houses. But my guess is it needs time, feedback and acceptance from my more developers. Making development tools for every aspect of smartphone OS isn’t a simple task.
    Wow I think i wrote something sensible here!!!

  5. Rock says:

    “continuous, smaller scale improvements to what they would call “Symbian” with most recent devices getting the changes initially slated for the generational S^4 release.”

    Speaking of improvements, I remember some people at forums said an improved UI for Symbian^3 devices is expected in the future. but I wonder how much changes could possibly be done. I’m thinking if the UI becomes entirely different from what we’re seeing now, then those apps currently available will have to adopt another UI again in order to maintain the interface consistency. Or am I wrong here?

    Thanks , guys

  6. dsmobile says:

    Well time will tell. Before Meego and S^4 did have some things common in layout. But meego went to new direction so may be Symbian will also take new direction and things will clear out for symbian UI after Meego is ready and out there.

  7. alex68 says:

    Avkon is the interface for QT Quick to communicate with Symbian only. All the UI components will be constructed using QT Quick. This change was very much influenced by Micosoft. QT Quick is known very fast (compare to Symbian) as well as efficiently.

    As for old QT apps, they need to port for QT Quick. The transition of existing QT apps might not be so big work. This is just my guess. I don’t have experience and knowledge about it though.

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