Nokia Unifies Symbian, Sets it Free

Nokia dominates the planet when it comes not only to cellphones, but also to Smartphones. But the upcoming iPhone Risk-style onslaught (not to mention the pending release of Android, though delayed) looks to have them a little worried. So they're finally getting their Symbian ducks in a row: enough of trying to work together with other companies like Sony and Motorola, they've purchased the entire OS shootin' match and are unifying the platform. Simple explanation: Symbian is the base OS, then there are different interfaces on top of that: S60 and UIQ. We're not fond of either, but between the two of them S60 seems to be the one with more legs (and more support, it's Nokia's interface of choice).

Update: we've got more to say here, so make the jump for the analysis.

UIQ is getting folded in to the platform now, basically, and the Symbian foundation is shoring up its base with input from the major players (but Symbian Limited is to be owned by Nokia). What's more, the platform will be offered for free instead of for a small fee and will even eventually be made 'open source' so people can much around with the nasty bits of the code. So basically Nokia is buying it so they can give it away. Confused yet? It's alright -- the bottom line is that in coming years Symbian development will continue apace and now has a decent chance of catching up with the iPhone's UI elegance. Well, a chance anyway. Interesting that Nokia is betting on a combination of Android-style openness and Apple-style unified look-and-feel.

In case you're thinking this is a yawner, it's not. See, the Symbian folks are pumped:

The list of partners who have already committed to the Symbian Foundation is pretty earth-shattering, as well, including AT&T, NTT Docomo, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone in terms of carriers. Handset manufacturers who’ve signed up include LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson. Tech leaders such as Broadcom, Fujitsu, Texas Instruments, and WiPro are also on board. This is an army, more or less.
This is a massive step for the mobile and open source communities, and a big deafening blow to mobile Linux and more importantly - Android. Essentially, the Symbian Foundation is what Google intended Android to be, only it’s already millions of devices strong. The ecosystem is already built, and thriving.

We agree, the target here is Android (and a little Windows Mobile on the side), but that doesn't mean that the iPhone won't take some collateral damage. See, the whole point of the is-it-isn't-it-really iPhone price drop was for them to pick up massive market share so their developer ecosystem could gain a foothold worldwide. If Nokia can get Symbian unified and moving foward quickly, that gambit isn't going to work so well (outside the US, anyway). Heck, even if Nokia can't, they're still by far the dominant player in the industry. Apple really has its work cut out if they want to become synonymous with "smartphone" across the world. Synonymous with smartphone right now: Nokia.

Will Apple sell a ton of iPhones? Yes. However they're facing as big a beast here in smartphones now as they do on the desktop. Although we don't think the iPhone will sit around 10% marketshare like the Mac does, we're not going to hold our breath for more than 30% worldwide marketshare. I'm not, anyway.

The loser here? Could be Motorola. It's not enough that they've lost all their RAZR lovers to the iPhone, but rumor has it the forlorn company is set to make a "last stand" smartphone that was originally supposed to feature, wait-for-it, the soon-to-be-defunct UIQ. Looks like they'll be reworking that there plan, eh?

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Dieter Bohn

Dieter Bohn is former editor-in-chief of Smartphone Experts, writing across iMore, Windows Phone Central, Android Central, and more. You can find him on Twitter (and everywhere else) @backlon.

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Nokia Unifies Symbian, Sets it Free

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The impact to Apple is minimal as you say. I agree that the real target is Android, however there's something missing from all this and it's what's in the cloud. There's no illusion whose in the Android cloud. What's in the Symbian cloud if there is such a thing?

@Dieter. This week's Most Premature Conclusion Ever:
"Today it's the iPhone which has the enchantment factor. How could it not - it comes straight from the Dream Factory. And Apple must now see a clear road ahead for world dominance.
Symbian has done everything its original designers asked of it - a twenty year lifespan is not bad at all. But it's now Apple's business to lose"

I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.