Symbian opens up and lets fly

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After all the noise over the past few months from new mobile platform creators, Symbian is at pains to once again appeal to the developer community that supports its entire ecosystem.

“The three most important words for the success of Symbian are developers, developers, developers,” says Symbian executive vice president David Wood at the opening of this year’s Symbian Smartphone Show.

Symbian’s move towards an open source operating system, of the kind new rival Google is touting with Android, makes it paramount it fosters a creatively fertile developer community.

Symbian chief executive Nigel Clifford says: “We’ve been doing lots of things corporate and operational this year and there’s been a few milestones as well – 200 million phones powered by Symbian have been shipped, and we’re now coming up to a quarter of a billion since Symbian first opened its doors.”

But times have changed. Proper and real competition has emerged.

Nokia, Symbian’s long time benefactor-in-chief, has taken a controlling stake in the operation and is expected to complete a deal for full control before Q4 is out.

And an open source Symbian operating system is on its way – the Symbian Foundation was announced in June, and has taken its membership to 52 last week. It is expected to run as a live software house from March or April next year.

Clifford says: “We started 10 years ago as a for-profit company. But we wanted to make [the Symbian OS] more attractive for high volumes and low cost devices, so we made it available free. We used to take $300 million [£192m] in rights before – we now put it back into the ecosystem.

“We want to take cost and effort out of the development track, make the system available for mass experimentation and allow others to get on with the job in hand.”

Full version of article appears in Mobile News issue 426 (November 3, 2008).

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