Symbian changes everything, and nothing

[With a correction made on June 26.]

The Symbian Foundation announcement today is a fascinating change in business strategy, but I'm not sure if it will help or hurt Nokia in the long run. I think something like this was probably necessary just to clean up the mess in Symbian's ownership structure. If Nokia can make the new structure work, it'll be a milestone in the use of open source by large tech companies, but I'm not sure it helps Nokia win the smartphone war.


What happened

--Nokia is buying Symbian. Everyone currently working at Symbian becomes a Nokia employee after the deal closes. Nokia said it will spend the next six months deciding "how we will use the unique talent we are gaining."

[By the way, the buyout by Nokia is a change I said was possible two and a half years ago when it first became clear that some of Symbian's owners wanted out (link). I am astounded that the change took so long. I looked back at my old post a few months ago and thought, "wow, I really got that one wrong." Now I am relieved to say that I was not wrong, I was merely prematurely correct ;-) ]

--Symbian OS will become free. Nokia's Symbian-related assets, including both Symbian OS and the S60 interface, will be contributed to the new Symbian Foundation, a nonprofit that will control the Symbian platform. So Nokia writes the code and then gives it to the foundation for free.

Founding members of the foundation include: AT&T, LG, Motorola, Nokia, DoCoMo, Samsung, SonyEricsson, ST Micro, TI, and Vodafone. It's very interesting to see some operators in the mix, especially AT&T.

The foundation will open source the new Symbian platform over a two year period. So eventually Symbian will be available for free.

The new Symbian Platform will have a broader scope than the current Symbian OS. It will include:

-An application suite (previously controlled by licensees)
-Runtimes (including Webkit, Flash, Silverlight, and Java; previously licensee-controlled)
-UI framework (formerly controlled by licensees)
-Middleware
-OS
-Tools, SDK, and application signing (previously shared between Symbian and licensees)

--UIQ is dead. SonyEricsson's UIQ technology, and NTT DoCoMo's MOAP, both of which are user interface layers written on top of Symbian, will also be contributed to the foundation, which will incorporate pieces of them into S60. The new Symbian foundation partners said at the press conference, "We will reposition UIQ in the new ecosystem." That's seems to be a face-saving way of saying, "UIQ is dead." Confirming that, UIQ announced immediate plans to lay off more than half its employees (link).

These are huge changes, even though they'll take a couple of years to implement. We won't get the first release of the new merged platform until 2010, although the partners say S60 and native Symbian apps will continue to run in the future, so they hope many more developers will create Symbian apps today in anticipation of future growth.

--Nokia will continue to control Symbian development. This is my interpretation, not something they announced. Technically, control over Symbian and S60 passes to the new Symbian Foundation, with product plans controlled by a managing board and councils made up of foundation members. This makes Symbian sound independent. But Nokia will employ most of the people maintaining and extending Symbian and S60, and could divert them to other Nokia projects if it ever dislikes the direction of the foundation. More to the point, the whitepaper explaining the new foundation says, "device manufacturers will be eligible for seats based on number of Symbian Foundation platform-based devices shipped, with the other board members selected by election and contribution" (link). So Nokia as the dominant shipper of Symbian devices gets the most seats, and can then control the election of additional board members. Symbian contacted me on June 26 with a correction: "Five Foundation board seats will be allocated to handset vendors on the basis of volumes shipped using the Symbian Foundation platform. There will be a maximum of one (1) board seat per company." So Nokia gets one board seat, and does not control the foundation.

The right phrase for this, I think, is puppet strings. But I don't mean that in a bad way; it would have been insane for Nokia to actually give up control over its smartphone OS. Just don't have any illusion that the strings have been cut. They've merely been relocated, and in fact I think Nokia now controls things more directly since it owns the Symbian development team. Added June 26: Nokia has given other companies a formal say in the feature set, with less official control by Nokia than it had when it held about 50% of Symbian, but perhaps more practical influence because it now directly employs most of the people doing the engineering. So I think Nokia gave up the official veto it had over Symbian's actions, and replaced it with a practical one.


What does it all mean?

I don't know.

The announcement is so complex, and so many things are changing in the mobile market, that it's very difficult to predict how everything will turn out. Also, the whole thing depends on crisp implementation. Even the most brilliant strategy fails if you can't execute on it.

You can't say that Nokia lacks guts. The foundation members said at the announcement that it is one of the largest open source announcements ever, and I think that's true. It's a very interesting, aggressive move for Nokia, and I respect that. There are precedents for a big company acting as a sugar daddy for an open source software project, but I don't think it's ever been done with a project that is as central to the parent company's operations as Symbian is to Nokia. It will be fascinating to see if Nokia can really work effectively through the foundation model. I presume they have thought about this a lot and feel the risks are well controlled.

I'm having trouble seeing the big picture of how this changes the world, though. I suspect the announcement is actually half cleanup and half power move. The power move is that it challenges Android, and could help harness the energy of the open source community to support Symbian. The cleanup is that the ownership situation of Symbian was unstable and had to be changed eventually, and SonyEricsson clearly wanted to get out of the UIQ business. The creation of the foundation solves all of those problems at once. My guess is that since Nokia is paying most of the bills, the other foundation partners were willing to go along with it. The Symbian investors get some money from Nokia, and can sit back and wait to see what the foundation delivers.

Here are some other issues and questions that stand out to me:

Symbian gets its UI back. Years ago, Symbian took itself out of the user interface business, allowing Nokia and NTT DoCOMo to develop their own UIs, and spinning out the UIQ interface team. The company declared that it had been a mistake to ever go into the UI business. So it was amusing to hear Symbian at today's press conference saying how disruptive it was to have multiple user interfaces, and how great it is to have them unified.

The reality is that OS companies have traditionally created the UI along with the rest of the OS because they need to be coordinated closely, and because developers want to work with one consistent interface. So the real mistake was getting out of the UI business, and Symbian has now corrected that.

What will happen within Nokia? At the press conference, Nokia was asked what happens to its internal S60 development team (which is rumored to be larger than Symbian itself) once the merger is complete. Nokia said vaguely that it's going to spend six months working out all those integration issues, and what it will do with the multiple geographic locations. It's hard for me to believe that working out process won't result in some layoffs. I hope I'm wrong; I have friends at both Nokia and Symbian, and layoffs would be incredibly painful for the Symbian folks, many of whom have spent most of their careers there.

The fate of the people is just one of the open questions about what the merger means to Nokia. Another is the fate of Trolltech, the development tool that Nokia purchased recently and said would unify app development across Series 40 and S60. Will it be contributed to Symbian? And what does the open sourcing of Symbian mean for Nokia's use of Linux?

How does Nokia differentiate its software? The theory behind S60 was that Nokia would have its own user interface, helping to differentiate its phones from other Symbian vendors. Now that S60 will be given away, how will Nokia differentiate? The Symbian Foundation says licensees will be able to create a "differentiated experience" on its unified UI framework. Lord only knows what that means. Maybe Nokia has decided the UI is not a point of differentiation at all, and plans to focus on something else (web services, perhaps?)

Will the change in Symbian really drive more developers? As the Symbian partners pointed out repeatedly in the press conference, they have already sold 200 million phones. If that's not enough to excite developers, how will adding another 200 million -- or even 500 million -- do it? Although Symbian now has a nicer long term story, I don't think most developers were paying attention to that. They respond to user excitement and the chance to make lots of money. The new Symbian strategy doesn't directly drive either one.

What does it mean to Apple? I think it's probably good news. Although the Symbian partners could theoretically bleed Apple by sharing investments that Apple has to fund for itself, Apple competes on speed and elegance, not cost control. Nokia and Symbian will now spend the next six months sorting out how they'll integrate and rationalize their organizations. No matter how much they try to avoid it, this will slip schedules and force people to revisit plans. And the other Symbian licensees have to wait two years for the new OS. That gives Apple a long, long time to build up its iPhone business. The Register put it very bluntly in its commentary on the Symbian announcement (link):

"Apple must now see a clear road ahead for world dominance...it's now Apple's business to lose."

Wow, from new entrant to industry leader in just a year. That sort of stuff must drive Nokia nuts.

Is Google happy or upset tonight? My first reaction is to say that Google should be worried because there's now another very credible operating system being given away for free in competition with Android (or there will be in two years). What's more, the leading mobile handset companies all participated in the Symbian Foundation announcement. That makes it harder for Android to get licensees. But the new open Symbian OS is two years away from shipment, giving Google lots of runway to get established (that's what I meant about execution determining the real impact of the announcement). Also, the governance system for Android is a lot simpler than Symbian's. While the Symbian committees must debate and agree on product plans, Google can just decide whatever features it wants to add, and toss them out there. In theory, Google should be able to move much faster.

Besides, there is the question of why Google really created Android. One school of thought says that Android was just a tool to bleed Microsoft and force openness in the mobile ecosystem. If that's the goal, then the opening up of Symbian is a kind of a triumph for Google. Nokia is, in many ways, doing Google's work for it. Which brings us to...

What happens to Microsoft? Here's the weird thought for the day: Microsoft is the last major company charging money for a mobile operating system. The throwback. The dinosaur. How many companies are going to want to pay for Windows Mobile when they can get Linux, Android, or Symbian for free? This is Microsoft's ultimate open source nightmare, becoming real.

28 comments:

Andy said...

An excellent post. Thanks.

This all seems to apply to the market for higher end devices, smartphones etc.

What's your take on how the bulk of the industry making bog standard phones will be impacted by this?

My thought was that it will accelerate the drive away from proprietary operating systems in that segment as well. It's going be to increasingly cheap to get higher end features onto lower end phones with this kind of initiative.

BR/andy

Bob Russell said...

As you reminded us, execution really is everything. How often do we hear in the mobile space that something big is right around the corner? And how many years does it seem to take? Palm, for example, has survived despite very incremental progress. Who would have thought years back that they could do even this well after such little progress, and even remaining on Garnet? Who would have thought that we would only now start to see major phone releases for WinMo with VGA resolution screens? Who would have guessed that WinMo itself would not really look a whole lot different than it did in the old 2003SE version?

Access seemed to be a hopeful addition to the OS race after it bought PalmSource. Linux seems to have forever been coming.

On the development platform side of things, there's lot of progress yet not much change yet. Java Mobile Edition is still disappointing and hard to develop with across devices. Even companion devices have only a failed Foleo and the Celeo RedFly (why hasn't anyone done that in software for Windows or Linus laptops like the Aee?)

The only surprises have been the quick success of the iPhone, the potential of Android and the slowness of progress everywhere else. Lot's of hope, but it seems like nothing ever changes.

Now with Symbian, isn't that just one more case of waiting to see if they can execute?

Two experiences remind me very much of what mobile platform development must be like. They made it clear to me that infrastructure is a big deal. And that integrating IT systems or platforms is harder than you would expect.

First, at a Fortune 100 company, I was part of a move from older proprietary technology to new platforms and server based Java applications. But not many were doing much more than client stuff and applets at the time, so it was hard work to build robust and scalable enterprise applications. And it was hard to find people that could get things done effectively. Even worse, it was hard to tell the real experts from the pretenders. The early projects basically required us to rebuild the infrastructure from scratch because it wasn't available to us. For example, the functionality of app servers that gets taken for granted, was up to us. Testing and debugging tools, and things like O/R mapping solutions were primitive. Even simple things like limited IDEs or even a lack of a robust collection of online solutions and workarounds. You don't realize how much infrastructure is needed until you jump into an environment that doesn't have it. We made it work and was a big success, but it took longer than expected and it was hard work.

The second set of experiences was first hand viewing of what it takes to merge IT systems in various situations. Interoperability is getting better on the technical side, but it may never be easy in terms of merging the business rules and terminology and definitions etc. I've seen efforts to merge large companies with acquisitions on the business and IT side, and it's not for the feint of heart. It will usually be much harder than it seems.

I could go on and on and on, and I guess I already have, but I really do think you have hit the nail on the head. Execution is everything here for the OS providers, including the incremental growth of the strategy (don't think for a moment that the strategy is set and never changed), the management of change, managing the relationships and marketing of the platform, partnerships and negotiations with external entities, the technological skillset and motivation of the work force, the existing technology, the efficiency of managing the budgets, the corporate culture and all the other details of execution are everything.

From what we've seen so far, I'd say don't hold your breath. This is not a simple thing to do quickly and successfully. And even if you do it, how do you win the hearts of all the phone makers and carriers and developers? Big stakes, but tough work.

Everything mobile still looks like it's just over the hill. A lot of reasons, but dependencies on all the components of the ecosystem and the lack of infrastructure is making it hard. Just wait until the infrastructure and skill sets have caught up. That's when we'll start seeing some real progress.

As always... comments are just random thoughts typed out as fast as I can think it and move my fingers. Don't assume it's all logical, and don't hold me to it. I just enjoy the discussion. Thanks.

Guilhem said...

Hello

I think your post is a good analysis of the facts and what may unfold in the future

However there is a facet that seems neglected in your article and I would love to hear your view on it:

What about the Limo Foundation (www.limofoundation.org) ?

You and other analysts are rightly pointing the Symbian Foundation (that I'll refer to as "SF" below) as a move to counter Android. However, it seems -at least to me- that the move is much more directed towards countering the Limo Foundation:
- SF is a "Foundation"
- SF has attracted a similar membership base as the Limo Foundation (LF)
- SF is structured in much the same way as the Limo Foundation
- The
"Key Benefits" outlined in the SF white paper seem directly targeted at countering what some in the industry perceive as Limo's "drawbacks": open vs semi-closed licensing (eclipse vs. Limo foundation license), cheap vs expensive membership fee (1.5 kUSD for SF, 400kUSD for Limo to have the right to ship code commercially), inexistent vs. large developer community, mature vs. unproven softwrae platform, etc.

So, what's your take on the impact that the Symbian Foundation will have on Limo's future ?

Thanks

Ben Combee said...

I wonder if Nokia will push for Qt to be the new native application system for the release from the Symbian Foundation. One of the reasons they said they bought Trolltech was to have a single app layer library that they could use to target desktop, Linux, and S60. I'd expect them to try to leverage that.

Tejas said...

Excellent post. One other angle to consider here is the impact on operators and Nokia's relationship with them. In the last few years, we have seen a lot of large operators worldwide trying to break free from what they percieved to be the vendor oligarchy stronghold. This might be a good move to placate these operators. There would be an economic benefit in continuing to rely on Nokia; at the same time, there is also an opportunity for operators to have a larger say in their customized variant of the Nokia devices by participating in the foundation.

This of course means that Nokia's predominant channel to market and therefore its marketshare remains intact. Not a bad thing for Nokia.

I believe Nokia will be focusing heavily on 2 things going forward - the software stack and the user experience (UI, services, etc.). Clearly, they have HW advantages compared to other players. I believe they get the Apple threat and have been making several moves to gain more control on the device SW. I am sure we will see some big changes in UE as well.

Big challenges for Nokia will be:
1. the big integration project
2. catching up on UE
3. lack of PC footprint - both Apple and Microsoft are leveraging that. Ovi / web services play may help but may be inadequate.

Adrian said...

Am I the only one who thinks that the Open Source aspect of this announcement is just an irrelevant distraction?

Does anyone really think that this is going to drive more adoption of Symbian? Let’s say you’re a VP at a consumer electronics design company, and you’re about to embark on a multi, multi, million dollar project to designing a new handset. Would you really adopt a software platform which will be completely controlled by Nokia, and totally without any support by its manufacturer?

To me, this deal is purely about Nokia saving on licensing fees. Nokia pays Symbian about $4 per S60 handset they make. It must be rather galling to them that they’re subsidizing Symbian to create features they don’t want, but which may be useful to their competitors. One of the press articles reported that Nokia expect this deal will cost them money in 2009, break even in 2010, and start improving their revenues in 2011. Forget about Android, Microsoft et al --- this saving is a perfectly good reason for spending $400 million or so. And, as an added bonus they also finally get to boss around the Symbian developers.

So, why did Nokia bother to set up the Symbian Foundation? I don’t know. Maybe it eases their relationship with other former Symbian licensees. Presumably these guys would have some escrow or support rights; maybe this foundation prevents them from calling those in. Setting up the foundation might also make getting regulatory approval for the take-over easier.

But those are just guesses. We can be a bit more certain about what the foundation won’t do. It won’t drive any developers back to the crusty old ways of Symbian development. It won’t encourage handset manufacturers to adopt S60, and it won’t hurt Nokia in the slightest

Anonymous said...

Michael - very good but I think you should be challenged in the way you seem to support The Register's take on the impact on Apple. ie 'it's now Apple's business to lose'. This is nonsense. We are so far away from this being credible that you should not support it.

John Gibson said...

@annonymous

Honest curiosity, what makes you disagree with the Register's statement?

Sander van der Wal said...

Nokia has stated that it wants to be a software and services company, so I think we should see the creation of the Symbian Foundation in this light. Nokia has stated it believed the smartphone to become commoditized more and more, and by making Symbian OS royalty-free the OS has been commoditized too. This should mean more and cheaper devices, enabling more and more expensive services and software.

Compare this to Apple's strategy, which to me looks like the combiation of a Software and Services strategy (iTunes, which is now the biggest seller of mp3's, 5 US billion sales) and a with a "cool device" strategy.

Michael Mace said...

Excellent comments, gang. Thanks for posting!

Some thoughts...


Andy wrote:

>>What's your take on how the bulk of the industry making bog standard phones will be impacted by this?

No impact for two years, until the new Symbian ships. Then the impact will depend on what that new platform looks like and how much hardware it requires.

Have I ever seen a new merged version of a platform get lighter and more efficient? No. So the likely outcome is, no impact on average phones at first shipment. But I'd be happy to be wrong.


Bob Russell wrote:

>>How often do we hear in the mobile space that something big is right around the corner? And how many years does it seem to take?

It is almost a way of life for the mobile industry.

Great comments, Bob. Keep it up.



Guilhem wrote:

>>What about the Limo Foundation (www.limofoundation.org) ?

Good points, and I need to do more thinking about it. The Nokia announcement has so many potential implications that I'd like to go hide for a week and think about it. It makes my head hurt sometimes (seriously).


Ben Combee wrote:

>>I wonder if Nokia will push for Qt to be the new native application system for the release from the Symbian Foundation.

Yeah, I wonder that too. I saw a Nokia quote in the coverage somewhere that implied they saw a role for Qt in all of this. Since Symbian Foundations is supposed to own the dev tools, you'd think Qt would get thrown in with S60.


Tejas wrote:

>>One other angle to consider here is the impact on operators and Nokia's relationship with them.

A very good point. See my comment above about my head hurting ;-)


Adrian wrote:

>>Am I the only one who thinks that the Open Source aspect of this announcement is just an irrelevant distraction?

Interesting points, and I'm sure you are not.


>>Let’s say you’re a VP at a consumer electronics design company, and you’re about to embark on a multi, multi, million dollar project to designing a new handset. Would you really adopt a software platform which will be completely controlled by Nokia, and totally without any support by its manufacturer?

I will probably use the one that gives me the fastest time to market at the least cost. If I save a month in development and 50 cents a unit I am happy as a clam, and I do not care if Beelzebub controls it. Seriously.


>>One of the press articles reported that Nokia expect this deal will cost them money in 2009, break even in 2010, and start improving their revenues in 2011.

Please post a link to the article, I'd like to look at it. Some of the financial analysis I've seen on the deal was written by chowderheads who didn't take into account the fact that Nokia is absorbing the entire Symbian payroll -- more than a thousand employees. So that's over $100 million in new expense to save $60m per year in royalties.

I think the deal breaks even only if Nokia increases its Symbian shipments by about 2x, or if it lays off a lot of Symbian and/or S60 staff. If they all stay on payroll, it's hard for me to picture how this saves Nokia a lot of money. It's not like Symbian was spending tens of millions of dollars on parties or something.

If there are big Symbian layoffs coming, then this deal takes on a very different face. It becomes more of a graceful exit/salvage mission from the whole Symbian adventure rather than a forward-looking strategy.


>>We can be a bit more certain about what the foundation won’t do. It won’t drive any developers back to the crusty old ways of Symbian development. It won’t encourage handset manufacturers to adopt S60, and it won’t hurt Nokia in the slightest.

I think 1 and 2 depend on what the foundation produces. But you're right that just having a foundation in and of itself does not help much.

As for number 3, I think there is substantial risk for Nokia if this transaction screws up Symbian and Nokia can't switch to another OS crisply. We could look back on this in five years as Nokia's Taligent deal (now THERE is a scary thought for those of you who have been in the industry for a while).

Dang, it I were writing things in this blog just to get traffic, that would have been the right title for the post. Oh well.


Anonymous wrote:

>>Michael - very good but I think you should be challenged in the way you seem to support The Register's take on the impact on Apple. ie 'it's now Apple's business to lose'. This is nonsense.

Don't read too much into what I appear or don't appear to support. I just thought it was a great quote, and I could picture it sending someone at Nokia through the roof.

Having said that, the author (Andrew O.) has deep knowledge of Symbian. He's worth listening to.

For a counterpoint to Andrew's quote, check out the commentary in All About Symbian's generally outstanding commentary on the deal (link). Rafe wrote: "With Symbian, LiMo, the OHA or most likely a combination dominating the mass market it is difficult to see how Apple will expand to become a significant overall player in mobile space (rather than an individual niche player with lots of press attention)."

I am somewhere between Andrew and Rafe. In the next few years we will get to watch a classic clash of design philosophies: Apple proprietary and heavily integrated, versus others open and somewhat slapped together. May the best devices, at the best price points, win.

Anonymous said...

Michael, hi

There are 10 board seats, 1 each for the 5 largest OEMs by volume of Symbian based device sales and 5 more for other companies who contribute to the ecosystem. Nokia will have one board seat only and does not determine who gets the others.

Mark Durrant
Nokia

Rob said...

Thanks for another great bit of analysis.

You ask 'Will the change in Symbian really drive more developers?'

As a developer who has avoided Symbian, this seems like a very positive change for me. The two things that keep me away from Symbian are the code/UI fragmentation and the code-signing requirements. It sounds like the first could see a genuine solution now. That has got to be good.

Martin said...

Hi Michael,

when I first read the press announcements my head started spinning. Very complex stuff. So I turned to your blog anticipating you would put down your thoughts. Great, I think your head is spinning, too :-) You answered a lot of my questions, thanks!

Martin

MikeTeeVee said...

In some ways, the Nokia/Symbian situation reminds me of PalmOne/PalmSource.

It seems that you can either control all the hardware and software (e.g. Apple, or Palm back in the day) or you can be an OS vendor and let others build the hardware (e.g. MS or Android).

But being a hardware vendor that tries to share your OS with other hardware vendors is troublesome.

Michael Mace said...

For those of you reading the comment feed, I wanted to thank Mark of Nokia and also the folks at Symbian. They let me know that I misunderstood the makeup of the Symbian Foundation board. Nokia gets one seat, and so it has given up the level of official control it had when it owned almost 50% of Symbian.

But I think Nokia still has substantial practical control because it now employs most of the world's supply of Symbian engineers.

If Symbian takes off as an open platform, that might change over time. An interesting move by Nokia. It's unusual for a big company to accept even this level of potential loss of control.

I have corrected the original post. Sorry for the confusion.

silpol said...

my (rather short) take is - by time of delivery, Symbian will be DOA; there are 10 to 15 (depends whom you ask) serious troubles with Symbian, making it much cheaper to bury than surgery; passing it to open source is new twist in corporate slang for "downsize/get-rid-of those farms of oldies". And I wish I am in wishful thinking in this text.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Michael for your response and to John Gibson I would respond by saying that The Register's take is based on simply a hunch only, and maybe a biased one at that. The fact is that the business is Nokia's to lose, and not Apple's. The number of phones sold proves that. Yes, Michael, it's a nice quote but it's some distance from reality.

I take your point that you weren't necessarily subscribing to that opinion.

Mark

Michael Mace said...

Rob wrote:

>>As a developer who has avoided Symbian, this seems like a very positive change for me. The two things that keep me away from Symbian are the code/UI fragmentation and the code-signing requirements. It sounds like the first could see a genuine solution now. That has got to be good.

Good perspective. Thanks for sharing it.


MikeTeeVee wrote:

>> In some ways, the Nokia/Symbian situation reminds me of PalmOne/PalmSource.

Stop, you're scaring the Nokia folks.


>>It seems that you can either control all the hardware and software (e.g. Apple, or Palm back in the day) or you can be an OS vendor and let others build the hardware (e.g. MS or Android). But being a hardware vendor that tries to share your OS with other hardware vendors is troublesome.

Yup. And I think the lessons go even deeper than that. When I find the time I'll write about it.



silpol wrote:

>>by time of delivery, Symbian will be DOA

It's interesting how diverse the reactions are to the deal. They range from optimistic to "time for the funeral." Richard Windsor of Nomura was upbeat; he said this is a huge blow against the for-profit OS companies (ie, Microsoft).

Michael Mace said...

John Forsyth, who leads the strategy team at Symbian, is blogging about the process of forming the Symbian Foundation. His first post has a lot of detail in it, and I'm looking forward to what he'll write in the future as the process goes ahead.

Hoping for some inside scoop, John ;-)

You can find the weblog here.

Saravanan said...

Hi,

A great post. I never thought about the execution part. I assumed that Nokia will do well in this regard. I feel when they can convince Vodafone to include ovi, I am sure that they can do what they plan to do. That's Nokia.

I am just an engineer in the Software industry and here are my views regarding the Nokia taking over Symbian : http://thevoidsaran.blogspot.com/2008/06/my-take-on-nokia-taking-over-symbian.html

I am just another brick in the wall.. But I feel it is one of the smartest and great move by the leader, NOKIA. :)

Saravanan.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Nokia will have to take over the payroll - but only long enough for the transition to open source to become complete, after which the operation can be scaled back enormously. That can be counterbalanced with all the cash Nokia has had to inject into Symbian to keep the loss-maker alive all this time. In the end its likely a wash. Nokia gets to undermine Android, and stick it to Windows Mobile (which will probably have to become free or subsidized now).

Nokia knows that they have to switch to S&S a la RIMM if they are to survive. The money is on the back end, unless you have Apple's skill in making money off hardware. This is a way of divesting themselves from a money pit (notice that the price is just 2x revenue). Those handset makers who don't make the jumpt to services (Palm, Moto et al) are doomed.

The Shonko Kid said...

Apple aren't even in the same industry. It's not theirs to loose, it's still Nokia's. Apple dominating the smartphone industry would presuppose they either licence their SW, or every other manufacturer just gives up. I see no reason why they would ever license iPhone OS (what would they charge?), and it's such an important sector, the big players (who all ship more product than Apple) aren't going to walk away.

Licensees don't have to wait till 2010 either, part of the announcement is that Symbian OS + S60 will be available license free from January. 2010 is just when the fully Open Sourced version is available. We're still waiting for those Android handsets that are going to take over the world.

But, for me, the best part of this announcement is making M$ look ancient. The business model has changed under their feet, and it's adapt or die time for them. I'd hate to be an office chair in Redmond right now!

Hampus Jakobsson said...

Really good post!

Will Silverlight become open source?

And you are right about Qt - what will happen?

Michael Mace said...

Anonymous wrote:

>>Yes, Nokia will have to take over the payroll - but only long enough for the transition to open source to become complete, after which the operation can be scaled back enormously.

Not a very inspiring prospect for the Symbian employee base, is it?

I need some people with more open source experience than me to help me understand this. When you open source something, does the community automatically take over the maintenance and further development of it? It's hard for me to picture a bunch of volunteers doing that for Symbian OS, especially since it's notorious as a pretty complex system.

But maybe I'm out of touch.


The Shonko Kid wrote:

>>I see no reason why they would ever license iPhone OS

I would be shocked if they did. Apple is a systems company.


>>I'd hate to be an office chair in Redmond right now!

Me too.

Sander van der Wal said...

I don't believe that, as long as the Symbian OS stays important for Nokia et al, maintenance of the OS will be done by volunteers. The risk of them skrewing up is simply too big.

There are also a number of other issues that are very specific to Symbian OS development compared to for instance Linux kernel development. A Linus kernel can be run on bog-standard PC hardware, while Symbian OS itsefs runs on specialised hardware, and kernel development is done on expensive prototype boards. Then there's the tools. Apparently you need the ARM RealView compiler at USD 6000 to build a ROM image, and the Carbide C++ OEM edition at EUR 4000 to do things like kernel debugging and profiling. There was nothing in the announcement about these tools becoming free too.

Anonymous said...

Great post!

As a Symbian developer for so many years in Nokia and various other companies, I don't know whether Nokia will win this war or not. Nothing is clear so far. However, Symbian is technically better than many other smart phone systems on such things like power consumption, hardware requirement. Because these are the design goals of Symbian OS from the very beginning. Has anyone noticed that Motorola has discarded their Linux based smart phones and turned back to Symbian? It's true that the hardware is running faster and faster. But a cell phone is not a PC. With the system getting more and more complicated, power consumption is definitely the bottleneck. Who wants to charge their cell phone very day?

Anonymous said...

s.t. I think the number of Symbian based devices will increase in the next few years. Another point is that, the Symbian OS is written in C++ and the whole design is OO. It has a very good layering structure. For example, if you want to port some subsystem components to Symbian, it won't take you "that long", as some people imagined. I worked on Windows, Vxworks and Linux before. Symbian does have its advantages.

Anonymous said...

The way open source works is that, each component in the system has a owner, this is often the person who submit the component the first time. Users of the component will find bugs in the component or they want to add new features. If they want to submit their fix or new features to this component, it has to be approved by the owner. Sometimes it takes a long time to convince the owner if he is a jackass, because you are hurting his babe. You may ask that why bother submit your new feature? Because you want your change in the baseline s.t. you can avoid lots of painful merge when the baseline is pushing forward.