New, Open Symbian Looks Beyond Smartphones

The Symbian Foundation said today that it’s completed the migration to open source — and that it’s hoping to take the mobile operating system far beyond smartphones. The transition to open source — which the Symbian Foundation crows is “the largest in software history” — enables developers and organizations to access the code for use on any platform, not just phones but tablets and a wide range of other connected devices, according to Larry Berkin, Symbian’s head of global alliances and U.S. general manager.

“If you look at eras of computing, from the desktop to the laptop to cellphones, things have grown in an order of magnitude,” Berkin told me. “My anticipation is that over the next 5-10 years you’re going to see all kinds of things. Unit volumes certainly rest in the phone space today, but we anticipate that morphing and changing.”

Nokia announced plans to take Symbian open source in June 2008, a move that including buying the remainder of the company and establishing the Symbian Foundation. But while the conversion was completed four months ahead of schedule, the OS lost substantial ground during the transition to competing platforms from Apple, RIM and Google. The shifting landscape has led some to question whether it’s already too late for Symbian to capitalize on open sourcing the OS.

But carriers are already looking to connected devices to shore up slimming voice margins, and a variety of new tablets will come to market this year. It may seem odd to hear that the 10-year-old Symbian platform is targeting the new wave of devices, but it’s a smart move for an operating system that continues to lose market share — especially now that Nokia’s long-term hopes for high-end handsets hinge on Maemo.

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Image courtesy Flickr user KhE ?.

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