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Summary:

Symbian, the open-sourced platform used in Nokia’s smartphones, gained a €22m investment from the ARTEMIS Joint Technology Initiative to create the SYMBEOSE consortium from 8 member nations. What’s the sudden public-private interest in Symbian? Fear of a future filled with embedded devices running Google Android.

symbian-platform

Symbian, the open-sourced platform used in Nokia’s smartphones, gained a €22 million ($30.8 million) investment from the ARTEMIS Joint Technology Initiative, a public-private European Union initiative for research and development in embedded systems. The non-profit Symbian Foundation, which controls the Symbian platform, will lead development with a newly named consortium called SYMBEOSE, meaning “Symbian – the Embedded Operating System for Europe.” The new consortium is composed of 24 organizations from eight EU nations.

Upon first glance, I gathered that the Symbian operating system was continuing a defensive transformation while others think Symbian is as good as dead. After all, Lee Williams, the top exec of the Symbian Foundation recently left, as did Symbian supporters Samsung and Sony Ericsson, both of which are focusing smartphone development on Google’s Android platform. Samsung’s move in particular is paying off with over 5 million Android device sales in under six months. But even as Android continues to gain market share, Symbian isn’t going away; Nokia still believes it to be the best platform for its fight against iOS and Android devices, while Sharp and Fujitsu continue to use Symbian as well.

Instead, this looks to be a financial injection from an EU-sponsored research project, which is a small positive for Symbian. However, it appears to be due, at least in part, to concerns that Google’s platform is encroaching. It seems to me that some EU members, through the SYMBEOSE consortium, don’t want Android on embedded devices and are banding together to stave off such a future under robot control. Android is already powering televisions and has potential to be in scores of other Internet-connected devices in the future.

Here’s an excerpt from the Symbian blog explaining some of the SYMBEOSE initiatives which illustrate WHO’s fears of Symbian losing relevancy down the road:

Broadly speaking, the proposed advances to the Symbian platform will focus on radically improving the basis for new device creation on Symbian. Additional work will concentrate on a set of core platform enablers that will support the types of mobile services that will be most prevalent in the near future. For example, the SYMBEOSE initiative will develop new core platform capabilities, providing the best possible levels of power efficiency and improving Symbian’s current, market-leading offering in this area. This will be achieved by delivering fresh optimizations which harness the rapidly developing area of multi-core processing used in conjunction with new techniques in Asymmetrical Multiprocessing.

Another good example relates to new concepts in “cloud-computing”. Although this is already having a huge impact on the way in which personal content is being consumed and managed, the technical basis of how cloud computing should be supported for future mobile devices is still poorly defined.

It sounds somewhat like high-level mobile industry research to me, which isn’t suprising since the ARTEMIS Joint Technology Inititive includes universities and research organizations, in addition to network operators and other industry players as members.

Interestingly, Nokia and the Symbian Foundation tout how the open-sourced Symbian approach can benefit everyone involved. And yet, the biggest benefactors — the handset makers — have been abandoning the platform for Android or hedging an Android bet with their own operating systems, such as Samsung with its Bada initiative. For the moment, SYMBEOSE looks like a way to increase foundation membership and the number of organizations looking to use or better the Symbian platform while getting these folks to pay to play. I’ll be watching with curiosity to to see if any SYMBEOSE research trickles down to improvements in consumer devices running Symbian, or this effort is simply a membership drive.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

  1. Symbian doesn’t really need this, but its a welcome change.

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    1. Hmmm…. Symbian doesn’t need what: the money, the additional resources helping to make it better, both or something else? ;)

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      1. A new set of people deciding things for them.

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  2. Circling the wagons and hiring a body guard will delay but not prevent Symbian’s from falling off the face of the earth.

    If they want to pull the band-aid off slooooowly, that’s their choice.

    I doubt Europeans Consumers will be happy when they see “Symbian TAX: €24.00″ on the price tag of washing machines, TVs, picture frames, etc.

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    1. I suppose you would have a point if 22 million Euros wasn’t less than one percent of Nokia’s annual R&D budget and Nokia hadn’t shifted 60% more Symbian devices than they did this time last years.

      But it is, they did and so you don’t.

      This is for embedded devices by the way, not phones.

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  3. Well done!! Stop Google’s and Microsoft’s domination of world.

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  4. Oh symbian..i think you’re gonna die pretty soon. Compared to other OS you are so outdated!

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    1. That comment is so 2007. Its been 3 years, get over it. Symbian isn’t dying.

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  5. I think you’re spot-on about the ‘why’ here, the only question is, what can they realistically achieve?

    For all that the Symbian Foundation has lofty goals, they’re running with stale technology, and to fix it will take a lot more than EUR22M. If only they had access to something like QNX that would make much more sense, that really is some nice tech – but RIM has that sewn up now.

    It seems like a Linux-based choice like Meego might have given them better bang for their euro, and have more of a chance of success.

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    1. “they’re running with stale technology, and to fix it will take a lot more than EUR22M”

      Do you even know what you’re talking about? UI is not same as the OS. You’re reading too much of Gizmodo I guess. Symbian^3 brought thousands of under the hood changes and the damn thing is steady as a rock and much more resource efficient than any of the competing OSs out there. Symbian^4 was supposed to bring the much needed UI changes, the changes will still come but it won’t be called Symbian^4. Once the new Qt based UI is out, Symbian will become modern as per your definition.

      And since Symbian has taken a Continuous Improvement approach, all the changes will also come to current Symbian^3 handsets available in the market like C7 and N8.

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      1. That’s the problem, “Once the new Qt based UI is out…” The end user doesn’t give a rats behind about the underpinings, otherwise we all would be using Solaris or something. The UI, the vertical integration to offer complete souliton, and the resulting usability is all that counts. It is why the iPhone OS with all of its limitation went gangbusters.

        Symbian is too quirky, too disjoined, too hard to develop on, and with the speed at which software evolves, really a part of history.

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  6. Johnny Tremaine Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    Eh, whatever. It won’t make any difference to resuscitate Symbian.

    Symbian should be auditioning for a walk-on part as a shuffling zombie on The Walking Dead.

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    1. Snark Of The Day!

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  7. [...] komt ie: Op 2 november lees ik ondermeer bij Gigaom dat de Europese unie via één of andere constructie 22 miljoen Euro in Symbian steekt. Symbian is [...]

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