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Summary:

Symbian, which recently agreed to be acquired by Nokia, is part of a growing number of mobile platform makers — Apple, Google, LiMo — that are all are vying for the attentions of the mobile developer community. The company sent over an email this morning with […]

Symbian, which recently agreed to be acquired by Nokia, is part of a growing number of mobile platform makers — Apple, Google, LiMo — that are all are vying for the attentions of the mobile developer community. The company sent over an email this morning with details of its Symbian Partner Network (SPN), which will theoretically allow members to work better in the Symbian ecosystem. There are tons of benefits to this new partner network, and I’m sure some of them are actually useful.

In exchange, “partners” would have to pay $1,500 for the annual membership, down from a previous $5,000-a-year membership price tag. Yet I wonder if $1,500 is also too much. Somehow it feels like, after spending $410 million on Symbian, its new corporate masters are pinching pennies precisely at a time when they shouldn’t be.

Symbian, thanks to Nokia’s deep pockets, can afford to spend liberally on the ecosystem. Not only that, it needs to spend liberally, for it isn’t the only game in town anymore. If it wants to keep folks (partners) loyal to its ecosystem, Symbian will have to throw in some sops. Google and Apple, after all, are doing their best to attract developers.

  1. (These are my words, not of my employer)

    Symbian was born to block Microsoft’s entrance in the cellular networks and since the same big boys (now Nokia) make money by selling the network infrastructure their customers are the telcos. not you. not the developers.

    thats why originally they were asking 20k USD for the dubious honor of joining their crappy developmers program. and that is why their market share in the enterprise space in North America is zero.

    to be fair Symbian deverves only a limited amount of bashing. problems where also with S60 (which has always been nokia’s). and have you ever tried to use a windows mobile phone? omfg.

    Symbian still thinks that charging 1500 dollars will attract the best developers while weeding out the penniless hackers. I will end up paying that but I am not amused nor impressed.

    They still don’t get it. And they are going to fail.

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  2. Have you seen the companies in the consortium? $1500 is not even rounding error in the financials to these companies. For any company semi-serious about developing for Symbian, $1500 a year is not that big a pill to swallow.

    My guess–not based on any insider knowledge I might have–is that they have to charge SOMETHING for access to the source, given the various cross-licensing agreements that are in place.

    Of course, if all goes as planned, this entire exercise will be moot in a couple of years anyway. The entire stack will go open source, making it possible for ANYONE–even people who didn’t pony up to the $1500 a year to be in the foundation–to have access to the source.

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  3. The $1500 are just temporary and for legal reasons. They will be abolished ASAP when all foundation members have made their contracts compatible to the foundations license.

    Next year or so everything will be free and open source. That’s what I read in the new blog of one of the Symbian foundation’s head honchos. Only that I cannot remember his name and the URL.

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  4. Hello Om,

    I found the URL. John Forsyth leads the strategy group at Symbian and has a great blog at http://johnforsyth.blogspot.com/. I hope he forgives me the longer quotes from his blog posts. They seem to answer your question “Why Is Symbian Charging Its Partners?”, as he says:

    http://johnforsyth.blogspot.com/2008/06/welcome-to-future-of-symbian.html

    To that end, there will be a new not-for-profit entity to host and guide the platform: The Symbian Foundation. Anyone who agrees with the basic principles and by-laws of the Foundation will be able to join (you can register your details for more information on membership here), and the source code to all the components that the founding members have contributed will be available to Foundation Members from Day 1 (which will be a short while after the deal is closed). In due course, the platform source code will be made available to anyone who wants it under the Eclipse Public License. And the platform will be royalty-free.

    Why not open source on Day 1?

    Being able to do so would be great, but we want to make sure of two things. One, that all the contributors have time to go through the necessary steps before contributing their code to the Foundation, because they will in effect be granting patent licenses to their competitors in doing so, and on the whole if you’re granting patent licenses to your competitors it’s best to check with your legal department.

    And two, that what we open up makes sense and is really usable – i.e. that it is consistently commented, well-documented and so on. And of course that we have the rights to open source it: today some of the code in Symbian OS and the other platform components is licensed in from third parties whose rights we will obviously take care to respect. These processes are going to take a little while, but we will try to work out a way of doing it in phases so that really useful bits of source get prioritised and released earlier.

    http://johnforsyth.blogspot.com/2008/06/free-as-in-rider.html

    To start with, it doesn’t mean people have to wait two years before they can access source code. In fact you can think of the plan as being in three stages. Stage One: between now and the regulatory approval of the transaction, during which time nothing changes. Stage Two: once the Foundation starts operations, let’s say some time early next year, at which point the source code will be available to all Foundation Members. Stage Three: the code gets released under the EPL to all (including non-Members). The transition from Two to Three should more likely be a progressive process, incidentally, rather than a single big-bang.

    Whether ‘free’ really means free
    Basically, yes it does. If there is a catch here it seems a minor one: that period where the code will only be available to Members, who need to pay US$1500 annual Membership dues. And free means we don’t even have any plans to fund the Foundation by putting adverts in the source code.

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  5. Phoneboy

    Now let me see – this is not as much about the so called “partners” but about getting people to develop on their platform. Rodolfo is right on the money about them “long term not getting it.”

    On Markus,

    I think we need not hold our breath for next year – they need to get aggressive right now.

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  6. Although I am developing application on symbian but I hate it most. The reason is the restriction this platform brings for developers by opening certain APIs only to paying partners and their capability restricstion with symbian signed. I am not against symbian signed , this should a good thing to have but not mandatory. If I develop an application for 6 months and invest my money and time and at the time of release symbian refuse to sign and ask me to change my design that would be the worst thing. I am keeping my hopes on Android. I would be the happiest person if unrestricted platform take over Symbian.

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  7. It is simply to filter out small firms and more an indication of commitment to the foundation than making any money.

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  8. Exactly – keep the riff-raff out.

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  9. [...] Why Is Symbian Charging Its Partners? [GigaOM] Somehow it feels like, after spending $410 million on Symbian, its new corporate masters are pinching pennies precisely at a time when they shouldn’t be. (tags: symbian) [...]

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  10. BUT WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? What about the END user? Will we at some time in the future FINALLY be able to have a phone that has wifi, load whatever voip we want, have voice recording, and be able to use that as our phone ring or whatever we record wild, camera (6 or 8 megs), keypad (one with buttons mind you), and touch screens, music player…let’s see, what else? WHY CAN’T WE HAVE ALL THIS ON ONE FRICKEN PHONE NOW??? AND be able to use it on VERIZON? Also, have the phone….duh….work not just with 4 or 6G technology, but with all the GSM (dinosaur stuff, which, you kind of wonder, the rest of the world is GSM, but the U.S. is going 4G, etc.) So, answer that, heh?

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