Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Collection of great materials on Symbian going open-source

My regular readers may wonder why I've been silent on the great news of the mobile industry: Symbian is going open-source. The reason is simple: I was so shocked to hear it in the news that I just sat back watching the flood of new blogs and comments trying to digest this new information. But I've been digesting it, too. Other people whom I respect and think knowledgeable in this area have written their opinion and I'm now about to collect some of them in a blog and share it with you.

Andreas Constantinou from Vision Mobile was one of the fastests in commenting the news. He concluded that it was a logical move from Nokia (and Symbian, etc.) both from technical and business point of view:

    • " ... [Symbian] was crippled without control of the UI, application stack and the core OS under the same entity"
    • Eclipse (EPL) license is a weak one, which will make it desirable for OEMs to choose it.
He was also the first to point out that this move would cause lay-offs and some hard times for the following industry players:
    • SonyEricsson and Motorola: they will eventually have to give up with UIQ, since S60 will be the dominant UI and ecosystem and S60 will basically swallow both UIQ and MOAP(S).
    • Android's royalty-free, open source business model is not the only compelling alternative for OEMs, operators, etc. On the contrary, Symbian has already proved whereas Android has not yet.
Simon Judge over at Mobile Phone Development comments that " ... full access to the platform code allows for much more innovative applications using facilities that are currently hidden" and all this "only" for $1.500 is definitely a step forward.
He also cleverly notes that "Nokia and Symbian now see licensing the OS as a dead end" - I wonder what Microsoft will comment on it?
Finally, he raises his concerns on a technical question, backward compatibility: "... [the announcement] doesn’t explain whether this is source code, binary or application compatibility" - we wouldn't like to face with such a big break as what we did with the introduction of Platform Security, would we?

Mobile Opportunity's Michael Mace hails Nokia for their courage. He suspects, though, that "... the announcement is actually half cleanup and half power move: ... The power move is that it challenges Android ... The cleanup is that the ownership situation of Symbian was unstable and had to be changed eventually, and SonyEricsson clearly wanted to get out of the UIQ business".
He also asks what will drive Symbian developers after this change? While he believes that developers "respond to user excitement and the chance to make lots of money", he fails to see how the new Symbian strategy drives either one.
Finally, Michael points out that the longer it will take for Symbian Foundation to kick off, the bigger the advantage for Apple and Android. What about Microsoft? "This is Microsoft's ultimate open source nightmare, becoming real.

Rafe Blanford from AllAboutSymbian has written about Symbian Foundation unwrapped. He says that the tranformation of Symbian OS to a royalty-free, open-source system is according to today's industry philosophy and whilst it's a logical move forward it would not have been possible 10 years ago, since "...companies would have been unwilling to let Nokia or anyone else have such a dominant position". The new Symbian OS will challenge LiMo, Android and the likes on their own strength and "negates their key advantage". Apple's iPhone might be not affected, according to Rafe, since "it is difficult to see how Apple will expand to become a significant overall player in mobile space (rather than an individual niche player with lots of press attention)".

The hypothetical ("10 years old") problem Rafe was referring to is supported by The Register, too. They say, "the most damaging problem is that Symbian's licensees may have no desire to make Nokia stronger now that it owns the operation 100 per cent".
They also worry about that "the 'Foundation' may also prove to be an expensive liability for Nokia".
Finally they write that "it's largely Nokia that must be blamed for failing to make Symbian phones remotely 'enchanting' ..." and "... today it's the iPhone which has the enchantment factor. ... 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."

Apple and world dominance. What about Microsoft? They're still bigger than Apple at least in terms of mobile OS market share, aren't they? Well, we've already got used to the style Microsoft comments similar announcements, thus it must not have come as a surprise that they have welcomed this move. To be more accurate, they have "welcomed the transformation of the Symbian mobile-phone platform into an open source project, because the software giant contends the change will create a host of new problems for the Symbian community." Sweet, isn't it? They use FUD referring mainly to the big 'F', fragmentation, saying that "there are more Linux consortiums that come and go than there are Linux phones".

Which might be true, actually. But don't lump Symbian and mobile Linux together. David Wood, EVP of Research at Symbian, has written a lengthy article about how he (and Symbian) sees this problem. He argues that 1: fragmentation really is a problem, 2: Symbian has the experience and ability to handle it. As opposed to Google, for example, says the side-note. :)

Finally, it's worth paying attention to Ajit Jaokar's article, who warns that "it is not possible to compare Symbian vs. Android; or Symbian vs. iPhone .. because it is not possible to mix operating systems with ecosystems". These are like "apples and oranges" in terms of "iPhone, Ovi and Android are ecosystems. In contrast, Symbian and Limo are operating systems or Operating system consortia". It's another lengthy article that is worth reading.

So I've been silent and haven't commented this news yet. Why? Because there are so many people to listen to ...

What about you?

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1 comment:

Brian Kirk said...

i can't help but think that nokia realized the power of the open-source community & the role that community will play in mobile phone application development. more about my opinion at http://networkip.wordpress.com/2008/06/26/battle-for-mobile-os-dominance/.