Symbian Foundation

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= open software platform for converged mobile devices




"the foundation will unify Symbian, S60, UIQ and MOAP(S) software to create an unparalleled open software platform for converged mobile devices, enabling the whole mobile ecosystem to accelerate innovation." (


"London-based Symbian, the leading maker of operating system software for advanced mobile phones, was set up a decade ago to develop an independent software platform for smartphones. Its software is now used in more than half of all such devices, relegating rivals such as Microsoft’s Windows Mobile to a small slice of the market. But handset maker Nokia is its biggest customer, leading to questions about its independence." (


"Now Nokia, which has owned a controlling stake in London-based Symbian Ltd. for several years, seems ready to shape the development operation up to deal with the challenges posed by Google’s Android platform, mobile Linux from the LiMo Foundation, Apple’s iPhone, a forthcoming version of Windows Mobile, and maybe even a reconstituted Palm OS.

Nokia announced today that it was buying the shares of Nokia that its doesn't already own. But instead of absorbing the software operation, it is turning its intellectual property over to the newly formed Symbian Foundation. Handset makers Motorola, Sony Ericsson, Samsung, and LG Electronics, carriers Vodafone, NTT DoCoMo, and AT&T, a chipmakers Texas Instruments and STMicroelectronics are also contributing assets to the foundation.

One model for the Symbian Foundation might be the success of the Mozilla Foundation, which began with AOL's donation of Netscape's code. This, of course, developed into the open source Firefox browser. But it's not yet clear just how much of the now-proprietary Symbian code will become open.

If a smartphone is defined as a handset with an open operating system that allows users to install the applications of their choice, Symbian has somewhere between 50% and 60% of the world market, depending on who is doing the counting. Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, and Palm are distant runners up." (


"The shift to an open source foundation required a change in Symbian's board. It had been owned by a consortium of rivals including Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Panasonic, Siemens, and Samsung. The new Symbian Foundation is being steered by a board of 10 members: five from phone manufacturers Nokia, LG Electronics, Motorola, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson, and five from network operators and chipmakers AT&T, NTT DoCoMo, Vodafone, STMicroelectronics, and Texas Instruments." (


Impact of the open sourcing of Symbian, by Glyn Moody:

"The Symbian operating system has its roots in an earlier offering called EPOC, produced by one of the stars of the British computing world (not that there are many): Psion. Psion is best known for two things: its hugely-popular Psion Organiser series, and the fact that it wrote the main office applications for the Sinclair QL - the machine that got a certain Linus Torvalds interested in the concept of multitasking, which in turn led to the creation of the Linux kernel.

Symbian has become one of the main operating systems for mobile phones, but until now, has not been open source. Nokia's announcement that it will be releasing it under the Eclipse licence is significant, but not one that is unalloyed good news for open source.

The move is clearly aimed at removing one of the main advantages of Google's Android platform: that it was mostly open source. Now that Symbian goes even further in the direction of openness, some of the attraction of Android will be lost. Moreover, Symbian has ten years of work behind it, is very well known, and is already widely used – none of which is true for Android.

But Android's loss is also Linux's loss, since Android uses the latter as its foundation. One effect of Symbian going open source is that it is likely to divert mobile developers from writing on Linux, weakening it in the mobile space. Indeed, splitting developer interest between two open source platforms may have the paradoxical effect of boosting Windows Mobile.

On the other hand, it could be argued that having two open source mobile platforms will ensure that there is some healthy competition between their respective developers – just as there is between GNOME and KDE. And while many bemoan the fact that the existence of two desktop environments also splits developer activity, it's certainly consistent with the idea that free software is about having a choice." (

More Information

  1. P2P Telephony
  2. Nomination of Nokia exec creates doubt about independence of foundation, at