Blog Post

Symbian Secures Big Backers in Mobile OS War

Symbian said today that 14 new companies, including Hewlett-Packard (s HPQ), MySpace, Qualcomm (s QCOM) and SanDisk (s SNDK), have joined its foundation. This brings the number of companies that have signed up to use the mobile operating system’s platform to 78, putting it ahead of the 47 members of the Open Handset Alliance, which supports Google’s (s GOOG) Android OS. More members are good, but Symbian still has to get those members psyched up and developing on its mobile operating system.

For example, Qualcomm’s decision to join likely reflects the truce it has struck over royalties with Nokia (s NOK), rather than an endorsement of Symbian. Qualcomm is also a founding member of the Open Handset Alliance. Still, Symbian is not a pariah, thanks to its ties to Nokia, which has almost 40 percent of the global cell phone market. But the shiny, new operating systems created by Google for Android and Apple for its iPhone (s aapl) have left Symbian looking a little dated. Nokia purchased the OS outright last June, and is in the process of an extreme makeover. In the increasingly competitive fight for the ownership of the mobile platform, Symbian can’t afford to rest on its laurels.

6 Responses to “Symbian Secures Big Backers in Mobile OS War”

  1. One of my biggest beefs with the Symbian platform as a developer is that the tool chain is exceedingly cumbersome and archaic. That’s just on Windows. On a Mac, it is much, much worse.

    I own an N95 as my primary phone and have only really owned Nokia phones for the last 10+ years, so I am pretty familiar with them.

    If I were to sit down and design/work on a mobile app from scratch, it would take some convincing for me to want to support a Symbian device solely on the basis of the cruddy development tools.

  2. Jesse Kopelman

    It is worth noting that one of Nokia’s more trendsetting products of recent years, the N700/800 tablets used a version of UNIX rather than Symbian. Seems like at least some people withing Nokia know the score. The effects of Moore’s Law would seem to dictate that simplified mobile-only OS are a dead end and we should expect even further movement into a single core OS for both mobile and desktop applications (OSX, Android, Windows 7, etc.). I don’t see much of a future for Symbian or Palm OS. Then again, that doesn’t mean they don’t have any good years left in them. The key is to squeeze out any remaining value without losing focus on that future devices will need to built on a completely different platform.

  3. Developer

    Symbian has every capability to turn around the scenario in 12-18 months from now provided they go in right direction. Best platform in the industry for application development. If Nokia give access to API that are restricted by Vendor ID checks (****even on paid or revenue sharing basis****) we develoeprs can prove the true potential of Symbian.

    I admit that GUI is not that attractive as in iPhone/Android but there is more than UI in a smart phone that only a strong platform can provide. And Nokia 5th edition UI is much improved BTW. Fully developed applications are stuck due to vendor id checks on Nokia device. Hope Nokia will wake up some day.

    Nokia failed to convince operator that giving flexibility to developers is key to success and introduced so many restrictions in S60 3rd edtion. Google being new did much better job.


  4. @ken and @josh

    I totally agree with you guys on the Nokia/Symbian OS. It is a sitting duck and there are going to be even more chefs in the kitchen now. This is an OS that is going down. Nokia is not a software company, or a web services company. They are a hardware company that because of its sheer size plays it safe. In doing so it has helped create an OS that is stodgy. I like Nokia hardware but man their OS sometimes is hard to use.

  5. Ken Fegore

    When Apple moved into the mobile phone sector questions were raised as to whether Apple would succeed in a market it had little experience in.

    Now similar questions have to be asked as to Nokia’s ability to curate the development of an OS which will answer the challenge that has been put before it.

    Any contemporary OS for a mobile phone has to be much wider in its purpose than anything Nokia have worked with so far. The iPhone OS is based on OSX, Google are aiming for an OS that reaches onto the Desktop and may even run Netbooks and other hardware in the future.

    Even more worrying for Nokia must be the infrastructure that needs to be established to support the market for any mobile OS nowadays. AppStores and web applications for private and office needs have to be flushly integrated, and developers have a lot more choice these days, so to get developers the environment and app market will be require even more attention.

    Nokia, having the advantage of the installed base will have to somehow be able to contrive the oncoming mobile OS wars in such a way that numbers alone will decide the outcome, otherwise they will lose.

  6. Symbian reminds me a lot of Palm OS (Sadly). When it launched it was awesome, but the development of the operating system has been, at best, stagnant.

    What Symbian needs is differentiation. Just being stable isn’t enough in the mobile space anymore, not since the advent of the iPhone. Stability needs to be a given, and Symbian can capitalize where others have skipped. By building an operating system that captures what consumers need (Great applications, A great browser, GPS oriented services and an awesome SDK for the devs) while maintaining the stability that’s missing from iPhone and other new operating systems, Symbian can expand its market lead and gain a stronger presence in the land of smartphones where they are losing significant ground against the iPhone and other devices (like the Blackberry Bold). The main thing missing is integration, which is present in Android, but that OS is not without it’s problems as well. Basically, it just needs to be a complete offering.

    Bottom Line: As with the launch of every major operating system, there is an opportunity for greatness. I just hope they’re able to capitalize on the tremendous opportunity that presents itself. The mobile landscape is by no means set in stone, especially in the smartphone frontier.