24 June 2008

Symbian 2-0

Filed under: Nokia, Open Source, Symbian Foundation — David Wood @ 6:13 am

Months of planning culminated this morning with the announcement of an intended dramatic evolution for Symbian – an evolution that should decisively advance the Symbian platform toward its long-anticipated status of being the most widely used software platform on the planet.

The announcement of the Symbian Foundation comes on the very first day of the second decade of Symbian’s existence. It also sets the scene for a much wider participation by companies and individuals in the development and deployment of novel services and applications for all sorts of new and improved Symbian-powered mobile devices. Because this second decade of Symbian’s history should witness radically greater collaboration than before, the designation “Symbian 2.0” seems doubly apt.

Subject to the deal receiving regulatory approval, I envision a whole series of far-reaching changes to take place in the months and years ahead:

  • It will become possible for the best practices of Open Source Software to be applied in and around the software platform that is the most suited to smartphones
  • Closer working relations between personnel from Symbian and S60 teams will result in more efficient development, accelerating the rate at which the overall platform improves
  • The lower barriers to usage of the Symbian platform should mean that the number of customers and partners will rocket
  • The unification of the formerly separate UI systems will further increase the attractiveness of the new platform
  • The platform will be royalty free – which will be another factor to boost usage
  • Because of increased adoption of the platform, the ecosystem will also grow, through the OS-ES volume-value virtuous cycle mechanism
  • For all these reasons, smartphone innovation should jump forward in pace, to the potential benefit of all participants in the ever expanding, ever richer, converged mobile industry
    Customers and partners alike – both newcomers and old-timers – will be on the lookout for fresh options for differentiation and support
  • In short, there will be lots of new opportunities for people with knowledge of the Symbian platform.

Great credit is due to Symbian’s shareholders, and especially to Nokia, for enabling and driving this bold and powerful initiative.

Of course, with such a large change, there’s considerable uncertainty about how everything will work out. Many people will be unsure exactly where they, personally, will end up in this new world. Lots of details remain to be decided. But the basic direction is clear: participants in the Symbian 2.0 ecosystem will be part of a much bigger game than before. It’s going to be exciting – and no doubt somewhat scary too. As Symbian’s first CEO, Colly Myers, used to say, “Let’s rock and roll!”

Postscript: For a clear rationale of some key aspects of the Symbian Foundation plan, take a look at what my Symbian colleague John Forsyth has to say, here.

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