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back to article Nokia to cull Symbian from smartphones?

Nokia smartphones may soon be shipped running the phone giant's Linux-based Maemo operating system instead of Symbian, it has been claimed. Maemo – also known as the Internet Tablet OS – has been around since 2005 and was originally designed for Nokia’s family of handheld internet gadgets. Now a report by the Financial Times …

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FAIL

heard it all before

Nokia have always supported 3 OS; Symbian series 60 (S60) on their smartphones, Maemo on its internet tablet range and the series 40 on the rest.

I remember the last time their internet tablet came out, N810, I think a few years back and a few articles looked surprised they werent using symbian. this seems a repeat story from then.

I bet in 2 yrs time when their next version of internet tablet comes out people will be saying the same.

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Thumb Up

yay

excellent - i've got symbian on my nokia and it isn't anywhere near interesting enough...

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Alien

problem is not with symbian...

the problem is not with symbian the problem lies with nokia. till the start of this year i was a big nokia/symbian fan. not perfect but better than anything else on offer. at work the 7 people had nokias.

now 3 of us have iphones. 1 windows mobile device and 3 nokias. what happened?

for me (i can only answer why i changed for myself) it was the stupid camera click noise they kept making more and more difficult to remove. it first appeared in the n70, was harder to eliminate in the e61i and before i bought the e71 i checked to see that i could turn off that damn noise. then a firmware turned it back on at the start of the year. i could use 3rd party software ccam to take pictures silently but that limits the macro mode, flash and also when you take a picture there is no noise but the flash does light up whether you want it or not. not very useful when taking screenshots to have a light blocking some of the image :-(

i understand why they added the camera click but their reason is ultimately bollox. a pervert could as easily turn on the video recording and take an up skirt picture silently. there are already laws to prosecute people who do such dumb things. we didn't need a dumb law to make all cameras make noise. would we pass a law to add bells to every knife as some people use them for illegal purposes?

at the start of the year i had 4 nokias. n70, e61, e61i and e71. i loaned these out to various folks who wanted to borrow a high end nokia to see what it could do and if it suited them. i was tech support for a lot of people who had trouble or just wanted to make their phone do something new. i have given away all but the e61. as it has no camera it doesn't piss me of. so i used to convince dozens of people a year to go nokia providing the tech support that nokia seem incapable of doing. their loss. i know other people are annoyed with the support they gave the iranian govenrment and also the lex nokia debacle.

should mention i was going to buy the iphone 3gs 32gb on prepay this month but the google voice app (an app i would never even use) removal pissed me off with apple too. looks like i'll have to get my hands on an android phone. won't be perfect but i'm not going to reward a company that does evil by buying new hardware from them.

one thing i really want besides a quiet camera is a programming language on the device. i could program on my psion 3a back in 1994. python was available if hard to learn on the nokias (pdf documentation that won't display on the phone itself, really?) at least android has ase.

and no i won't switch to winmobile. have yet to see one that's remotely useable though samsung omnia 900? looked a lot better than most. mind you when i mentioned getting a new iphone a few weeks back that person jumped at the chance of getting a cheap iphone. :-)

so goodbye nokia. hope apple cops on before too long. hello android.

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Anonymous Coward

They should just give up, then

I made the mistake of getting one of those internet tablets on the basis of, hey, it's a linux pocket computer! Only to discover that Maemo is the world's worst joke of a "linux" distro. Sure, it's rather unsteadily perched atop a real linux kernel, but the whole thing is so crippled and locked down, not to mention unstable and buggy, that I can only regard calling Maemo to be "linux" as a rather sick joke. Or a label applied by someone who has never actually used linux, which, from what I can gather, was more or less how Maemo was kludged together. And because of all the proprietary drivers, putting something better (like, say, a real distro) is even more annoying. So, hey, bring it on, I'm sure everyone else could use the laugh.

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Unhappy

About time!

Nokia has lost the plot completely. Just look at the latest and greatest N97, what a load of shitte.

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Anonymous Coward

@Jimb

I love my N97. Nice keyboard + nice screen + putty = no more need to carry a netbook. Contacts and calendar have improved a bit (although not as good as the S80 one which, in turn, aren't as good as the Psion 5 ones). Photo quality's a bit crap compared to my N95 even though it's a "better" camera. Signal's good. Battery life's good. Huge amount of storage. As usual with Nokia, the hardware's awesome but the software's a bit shonky.

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Big Brother

Looks like the iPhone fanboys have got here first...

Well, from the comments above it looks like the Church of Apple Scientology has got here first.

S60 has been rapidly going down hill over the last few years, but I think this has more to do with variant versions and operator "customisation" than anything else. If you get a generic Nokia handset with generic Nokia firmware, then you have little to worry about. However, when you get a handset on subsidy from an operator, thats where you are likely to get into trouble.

The comments on Maemo are clearly made by people who have never actually used one of these Internet Tablets. As devices, they are fine, you can do loads with them. But in saying that, I have always viewed them a bit of a "whats the point?". I mean, its all the stuff you would like your N96 to do properly, but without the phone bit. The N900 looks like it could be a winner, and to be honest, if you dont like Maemo then install another Linux - or indeed, install Android (you can do it on the N810).

Even Moylans comments on how extensible the Symbian OS platform seem out of place and odd. If it was so hard to develop on, then how come there are so many apps for S60 devices? You want Python, fine - learning it for a Nokia phone is no harder than learning it for anything else.

And I think the problem here is purely to do with the S60 spec as opposed to purely Symbian. Communicator users were in uproar when Nokia based the E90 on S60, and I think this movement is more than likely to have caused the current predicament with Nokia devices.

Nokia themselves have tied up the 'normal' mobile handset market, to confuse things further, this would be their series 40 devices. They also have two further specifications, series 80 and series 90. So I suppose what I am trying to get to is this: it isnt so much Symbian that is the problem, but more the Series 60 platform that Nokia uses. I also feel that Nokia taking control of Symbian OS also contributed to the problems they are facing now.

I personally cannot see any form of Apple dianetics taking root in the business world, so I dont see the jesusPhone displacing RIM or Nokia devices there. But Android, thats a different kettle of fish. This is the one to watch, unless MS is able to magic a good mobile OS out of its arse. Remember, resistance is futile.

Big Brother, because Google wouldnt like you to put all your personal information on a mobile device connected to the Internet constantly. They just expect you to do it.

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@ Karim Bourouba

I am one of the people who foolishly paid money for a N810, thinking I was getting a linux pocket-computer. I tried carring it with me everywhere for a good long time, too. But it's unstable, the interface is horrible, the software buggy and not replaceable, and are you completely serious about installing your own distro on it? In theory, yes, you can put Debian on, but in practice, that's apparently ludicrously difficult and even more unstable, not to mention impeded by proprietary drivers. A virtualized environment running inside the garbage doesn't count. Also, any OS that doesn't ship with a compiler and on which you cannot just download a tarball, compile, and install is not a "linux distro" as I understand the term.

The internet tablets are a neat technical achievement, but Maemo is sad crippleware. I know it was never supposed to replace a real notebook computer, but its sheer crash-proneness alone and the inability to remove bloatware more or less guarantee "what's the point" status. In retrospect, I believe I should have saved up for an E90, given that my Symbian phone... just works.

(Full disclosure: not an iPhone fanboy, I wouldn't touch a shiny widget made by Apple even if the screen resolution wasn't insulting and it had a proper keyboard. Nor do I like the idea of using an OS made by Google.)

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Anonymous Coward

Symbian^4 & Qt

Guess these guys haven't seen what's going on with Symbian^4 and Qt (which essentially would abandon the sloppy S60 UI and replace it with something sensible).

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Badgers

Innovation...

No, just joking. S60 hasn't changed for the last 5 years or so. Why do I want a modern bleeding edge phone, with a slow OS and functionality that hasn't changed or improved during that time.

I have always bought Nokia, but I'm doing to start looking elsewhere this year.

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Anonymous Coward

Die hard...

I've been a die hard Nokia user since 1998, my only deviances being short lived insurance replacements (2 Sony/E) I hated... but even I'm thinking my next phone will be something else, I've got high hopes for Android, and I'd like to see a newer ARM chip than Nokia have been using recently... a Pre, something from HTC, but probably not a Nokia.

I flat refuse to get iConned ;-)

And on a side note... the Euro exchange rate has really plummetted in the last year...

"Nokia spent €264m (£228/$367) when it acquired Symbian in 2008"

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Jobs Horns

Sorry, not an iPhoney but my experience with Symbian was not good

I have tried the 3650 and the E63 and my experience was not great. The camera click problem mentioned above was annoying (don't punish everyone because of the pervs - this is like mandatory DNA testing), the screen lock never quite worked (problem on E61 - phones must *never* make calls while locked), the stability was blah, and the synchronization (with Outlook) totally sucked. The only good thing was the browser - it was truly excellent. I also have a Nokia N810 and it is an awesome device in every aspect. So folks, please don't fall into the iPhoney-phile trap and just love the Symbian because you are afraid to change - try other options and give something new a chance.

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Paris Hilton

@OkKTY8KK5U

Oh dear. Did you not even look into installing Android? Hardly takes any time to get it installed... but I can understand people not wanting to try things out with their new hardware. As for the "Yes you can put Debian on it" comment - you do realise that Maemo is a Debian?

Still, never mind eh? Better luck next time.

Paris, as her nerdy younger sister knew full well that Maemo is a Debian and that you can use Apt on it...

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@moylan

Switch to the "silent" profile and the camera clicky noise goes away. It does on my E51 anyway.

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Go

S60 is ok, maemo could be much better

I've been using an N78 for almost a year and can't complain, it does what I want (til now) in a phone, s60 shows its age but works great with the base software + a few 3rd party apps (handy shell, skyfire, fring, nokia email and putty mainly).

I also have an N800 that I love, even with all the restrictions it has. I admit the NITs are not very consumer friendly, but are open enough if you can take the time to set up scratchbox.

I have great hopes for the N900/rover, but as it's probably gonna be too expensive, I think I'll jump ship to android in the near future.

But, if maemo5 is solid enough for nokia to make it their smartphone OS, I could stay

Either way, I won't stop using my tablet, mer is looking good and could be great for the old tablets.

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The Big Android Elephant in the Nokia Board Room

I've been a big Nokia fan since ~ 1996. One brief interlude with a Motorola around 2002 but came running back to Nokia begging for forgiveness.

Nokia do make great hardware. The N95 specs when it came out (and still is) fantastic. What phone in 2007 had a accelerometer, TV output, IR, Bluetooth, WiFi, FM radio, light sensor, front video conf camera, high quality main camera, flash, LAPTOP TETHERING CAPABILITY, VoIP, standard head pone jack?

Apart from the obvious lack of touch screen, a slower CPU and chronic lack of RAM (a real Nokia signature) it actually ticks many boxes my new Android based HTC Magic does not.

But it runs Symbian. And Symbian is crap. I've tried to develop apps (in a hobby capacity) with Symbian. It's not easy. In comparison, within one hour of the delivery guy dropping in my HTC Magic, I had installed and configured a development environment and written my first "Hello World" app. In another hour I had useful stuff written and working on my phone. Android is sooo much easier to develop software for. And that is the key difference. A rich market place of apps. Symbian will never have that.

It seems Nokia is internally very much conflicted right now. I've heard stories that their engineering people generally hate Symbian. It seems to be only the top brass that are trumpeting Symbian... kinda reminds me of Comic Alli ... Sadam's media spokesman during GW2... always a tad on the optimistic side...

So what next for Nokia? A hodgepodge of different OSs? Android or other Linux? Or, God forbid, Windows Mobile? Sure would be fun to be a fly on the Nokia board room wall.... or maybe a Cupcake, Do(ugh)nut or Eclare on the table :-)

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@ Karim Bourouba again

I know I shouldn't rise to the bait, but...

I did consider Android, and even aside from its Google roots, I don't want it. For one thing, my research tells me that it doesn't actually completely work - for example, not all of the keyboard keys can be made to function, which would defeat a large part of the purpose of having the device. Can't get around the proprietary drivers. And it doesn't look like Mer is all that stable and bug-free either. Android and Mer both look like they would merely entail trading one crippled joke for a different crippled joke.

Furthermore, just because Maemo uses the Debian package management system does not make it "Debian." Debian minimally comes with the ability to compile and install software without having to "port" it to some ludicrously stupid and unstable abomination like Hildon or the equivalent. And would, in fact, permit Hildon and most of Nokia's own terrible software (e.g., useless games or the even more useless mail application) to be uninstalled. (Also, my experiences with Ubuntu, at least, don't involve it spontaneously crashing quite so much.)

If, in fact, there really is a way to do that, I'll happily eat crow, and please understand that I'm not ruling out the possibility that I'm stupid. But I've spent a lot of time hunting for it and have not found any. Sure, "better luck next time."

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Bod

Symbian / S60

A lot of people say Symbian is crap, but Symbian (in the current Nokia products) is the underlying OS. The problem in part is the S60 platform which ties the S60 UI to Symbian (the other problem is generally the processing power and memory).

Symbian OS itself is fine. It's a proper microkerneled pre-emptive multitasking OS with an emphasis on utilising low resources.

The S60 UI and infrastructure has always been a clunky bolt on. The touch UI is again similar.

That's why Qt is going to be interesting. It's a complete departure from the existing S60 platform though, but still runs on a newer generation of Symbian OS. The resultant platform will technically be called Symbian though, including the UI.

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FAIL

@OkKTY8KK5U

It wouldnt be fair to call you a moron. You need to look at it this way. On a desktop, a linux runs with a GUI. If you use Ubuntu as a point of reference, then Gnome is the GUI. This over-simplifies things enormously, but I think it is warranted right now.

In maemo, the GUI is Hildon - which is a part of Gnome. Again, a massive over-simplification.

Maemo is a version of Debian - it doesnt just 'use' apt or dpkg. So installing Debian to the device is simple. It's done for you when you first get it.

As for porting software to the N810, this often takes place for Linux, for those using Gnome, KDE etc.

If you dont like Hildon, then you are out of luck - its a part of Gnome as I mentioned and is used not just for maemo, but also for Ubuntu Mobile and Embedded. Ubuntu can be considered a fairly popular Linux for the purposes of this comment.

Staying on the topic of Ubuntu, if you dont want to try the perfectly good implementation of Android, then did you even look at installing Ubuntu Mobile at all?

I dont blame anyone for not liking the hardware on the N810. But to rubbish the software on the basis that you simply dont like it and complain that you cannot do anything to replace the OS is childish. I dont blame you for not liking the initial OS on the device either. But since its release it has been improved quite a bit - and if you really couldnt live with it then it is incredibly simple to replace it with one you prefer. I dont even blame you for simply disliking the N810 and feeling you were cheated, if you dont like it, fine. There are plenty of others that would agree with you that the series of internet tablets so far are a little pointless - me included.

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@ Karim Bourouba

Actually, I think the N810's hardware is fantastic, aside from the bizarre and wholly inexplicable decision to use a MiniSD card slot. There are very few pocketable devices with 800-pixel-wide screens in any event, and as far as I can tell, no other devices with the same potential. I just found the potential grossly unrealized.

And I have to ask - have you, or has anyone you know, actually, personally tried installing Ubuntu Mobile on the N810? Because all of the information I could obtain resulted in me concluding that no other distro really worked, in part because of the proprietary drivers, and in part because they came compiled for a slightly different version of the CPU. I did some more searching recently, and I haven't found any obvious sites or forum posts telling me otherwise. Again, I must emphasize that I could well be an idiot, but I haven't found the information telling me precisely how I can do that and have it work any better than Maemo.

Finally, I wouldn't mind Hildon so much if it wasn't so crash-prone. The final straw wasn't so much the UI as the fact that I simply could not rely on the device to be any more stable than my horrible memories of administering Windows ME boxes.

I actually thought that the tablet was a great idea that would have been very useful to me, if the thing had actually worked. And my whole point - which I really did not make well - was that as far as I could see, Symbian basically just works, whereas Maemo basically just doesn't. Obviously, not everyone has the same experience.

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Pint

@OkKTY8KK5U

As it happens, yes, i have tried installing Ubuntu on the N810 and I have used Android on the N810. I own an N810, if only for a few months now. Right now, it has Maemo on it and it works just fine for what I want it to do. i dont find Hildon to be a problem, nor do I find any of Nokia's apps to be a problem.

The only problem I have with this is that I dont know what to do with it - it isnt a phone and thats probably what I really wanted more than this. A phone with a big wide screen, that wasnt a Windows Mobile device, that wasnt an iPhone and wasnt a Communicator. Natch, this doesnt exist ATM.

Then we get Symbian - dont confuse this with the OS on Nokia smartphones like you have confused Maemo/Hildon. With current Nokia smartphones the problem isnt Symbian as such, as others have pointed out - its the concept of S60, which is why people went off and came up with UIQ and people are coming up with things like Qt now.

Who knows, according to the Reg now, Nokia isnt going to replace Symbian with Maemo. Maybe they will redefine S60 so that devices can be Linux based etc.

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@ Karim Bourouba

I suspect we may be talking past each other, but I also think it's clear we wanted completely different things from our devices.

I wanted a full-fledged (albeit known to be limited and low-powered) pocketable computer that I could use as a reference library (I even installed the hardware hack to use full-sized SD cards), web browser with competent ad-blocking, email terminal on the go, note-taking device, pocket calendar, and hey, linux in addition. Except none of that is worthwhile with what I regard to be the wretched built-in software, most of which is not readily replacable. Also, I do know that Hildon is just the window manager, and I muck around with my own linux box plenty... but I found a much more tangled mess of dodgy wiring under Maemo's hood than on my Ubuntu box's. Not to mention the crash-proneness.

For phone stuff, I have a Nokia N82, which lacks meaningful ad-blocking, a usefully-sized screen, and a QWERTY keyboard, but otherwise, ironically, is far more stable and useful for many of the tasks for which I wanted the N810. There are pieces of readily-available software that, other than ad-blocking, just plain perform the tasks that I desire, and do them without a whole lot of irritating and seemingly random crashes and resets.

So from where I'm sitting, I don't see why there's hate for S60, possibly for the same reasons you don't see why I hate Maemo: S60 appears to perform as expected and required for my purposes, Maemo didn't. I get the impression that for you, and possibly lots of others, the opposite is true. So it goes.

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Alien

@OkKTY8KK5U

I still dont get how you can say that you cant work with the N810 under the hood. Its a Debian, if you want to compare it to Ubuntu fine, its a good comparison as Ubuntu is a Debian also. Underneath, they are almost identical. If your device is crashing, then update to the latest software.

If that doesnt help, then god knows why you havent been onto Nokia's support line about it. There isnt much point in telling the good readers of the Reg about your problems, unless you think Nokia is reasing this. And if a lot of other people have had the same problems, then maybe, just maybe, Nokia would be willing to do something about it?

I initially got my N810 as I was sick of my S60 devices. Over the years they have gone from slick and fast to slow and retarded. Nokia seems to have lost the plot when it comes to hardware on their S60 devices - the N95 is faster than the N96, which was supposed to be its flagship prior to the N97. The hate, as you put it, for S60 probably stems from the fact that Nokia hasnt really done anything with this platform for almost seven years, all they do is react to things like the iPhone. Which, to anyone who has followed Nokia at all during this time seems a little strange, given they already had Series 90 a good few years back (die hard Psion fans will probably show their love for this one). Series 90 was good and its interface lives on, in Hildon.

I dont mind that you dont like the device or its OS. What I mind is someone sounding off about things that they dont seem to have researched so well, or infact, discussed with the manufacturer. What you appear to be complaining about are two different things: Linux and Hildon.

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Camera click

@moylan - so you moved from a Symbian phone to an iPhone because the camera click annoyed you, but the iPhone also makes a camera-click noise (unless on silent) so I don't understand your logic? I agree though, I hate those silly camera-clicking noises.

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