The Symbian Foundation today announced in an email that Lee Williams has stepped down from his executive director role “for personal reasons” and will be replaced immediately by Tim Holbrow, the foundation’s CFO. Williams may have his own reasons for leaving, but there are a number of other business reasons that could explain such an action. Before we get into those, it might be worth reviewing this brief GigaOM video interview with Williams from a year or so ago.
After watching the interview again, a few big misses seem to jump out:
- In no uncertain terms, Williams criticizes Google’s “evil” approach of gathering information for the purposes of targeting ads and services. While many might agree, the system is clearly working: Android handsets are outselling those running iOS or BlackBerry in the U.S., which is driving smartphone adoption forward. Williams makes a good argument about who’s gaining the value in such a scenario, but it almost comes across as “sour grapes” because Symbian has no similarly disruptive model as of yet.
- Williams specifically called out handset makers HTC, Motorola and Samsung, saying such companies aren’t happy with how Google is disrupting the value chain, and suggesting that he “wouldn’t be shocked to see them announce in the future that they also like very open systems like Symbian.” It’s currently hard to see how upset these three OEMs could really be with Google; after all, HTC is riding Android profits to record highs, Motorola’s Android bet is paying off in the form of a spin-off company awash with cash and Samsung has sold over five million Android smartphones in roughly four months this year.
- Three major handset makers using Symbian were mentioned by Williams last year: Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson. Samsung now has its own platform in Bada, which supplements its Android addiction, and doesn’t need Symbian. As a result, the company announced it would no longer use it. Sony Ericsson too has bailed on Symbian: last month the company announced it would instead be turning to Android. That leaves Symbian on only one major handset maker’s phones: Nokia, which bought Symbian in 2008. Even with Nokia’s revamp of Symbian^3 for touchscreen devices, there’s still work to be done there.
In the year since we spoke with Williams, it’s become clear that Android has the momentum in the market, and Symbian just doesn’t yet have the firepower to challenge that. If you don’t believe me, just ask the companies mentioned in the interview that have either dropped the platform or never even used it in the first place. They’re still around, still making money and still embracing Android.
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