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back to article Android will sink Symbian

Symbian needs to cut to the chase and sort out its user interface, the organisation has been warned. The call comes from Gartner "distinguished" analyst Nick Jones who points out that while Symbian's still colossal market share is vanishing at an ever greater rate, the organisation behind the operating system still doesn't …

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Jobs Horns

iOS won't sink anything

Because it only runs on Apple phones and Apple won't ever license it, so until everyone decides they want iPhones (which will never happen as they won't ever appeal to EVERYONE), there will always be a market for an OS for other manufacturers.

Of course what that is, and how many they'll sell, IS a valid question.

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Even gods themselves...

I am tired of stupidity of analysts (who mislead the general public): Android is not OS, it is application framework (_OS_ is Linux). You can run Dalvik VM on top of Symbian _OS_ if you want to...

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Operating Systems vs. Kernels

Most common definitions of the term "Operating System" refer to more than just the kernel. While Android and traditional Linux distributions share the same kernel, that's pretty much all they share. The application level interface is quite different, so it doesn't seem out of place to refer to them as different operating systems.

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Anonymous Coward

Respectfully disagree...

OS vs kernel approach is fair for microkernel-based systems like Symbian. For monolithic kernel like Linux it will not work as kernel provides also file system, networking, and other vital OS services. Android is only very thin layer above that provides application framework and even use Linux processes to implement tasks, so it is a mistake to call it OS. In this case Python, Java, Ruby interpreters are also OSs...

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Symbian, RIP

The roadmap for the Symbian Foundation is the mobile phone equivalent of the longest suicide note in history. Major UI overhaul expected to be in handsets by H1 2011, a mere 4 years since the iPhone changed the rules of the game. At least Microsoft can claim it was distracted with other product development and took the eye off the ball regarding mobiles, but last time I checked Nokia are still pretty much a mobile phone company, which begs the question, WTF were they doing?

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FAIL

Humbug

So the "Analyst" appears to be implying that the Symbian Foundation has a whole load of resources that it can bring to bear on the problems that he highlights.

The Symbian Foundation specifically has NO developers who are working on the OS itself. They are essentially safeguard the Open Source project, but have a few people to manage builds and the SCM systems.

Nokia basically bankroles and supports actual development of the OS (with some support form Japan), and so it is Nokia's developers that would need to be re-purposed. It isn't clear from the article that the analyst really gets that.

Sadly, he's right that Symbian will fail, Symbian simply doesn't have the mindshare, and lots of things about the platform still suck and that puts developers off.

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WTF?

Um?

This is exactly what Symbian is doing (sorting out the UI).

His argument doesn't really hold up. Android's Interface is hardly a polished experience either; if he wanted to make a point about UIs then he should have only mentioned iOS, however iOS is limited to Apple devices and won't have the numbers to topple Symbian.

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Badgers

Symbian

Because the revamped Symbian will only be for feature phones. Not smart phones.

Nokia realised this was a problem so tested a Linux distro. This has "morphed" via 3 stages to Meego.

Meego is Nokia/Intel/Novell competitor to iOS4 and Android. Not Symbian

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Anonymous Coward

Not exactly correct...

If you read Nokia roadmap carefully you will see that Symbian _is_ for smartphones, S40 - for featurephones, and MeeGo - for mobile computers. But I agree that Symbian in this roadmap does not directly compete with iOS... (the difference between feature- and smartphone is quite fuzzy now, but usually featurephone has closed proprietary OS...)

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The Symbian UI & OS separation dates back to its Psion days.

Back then, it was already clear from the docs that Psion's own EPOC32 developers saw the OS and the GUI as separate elements.

Symbian's main issues were:

1. Terrible development tools. No seriously, they *sucked*.

2. Developers usually design and write applications to a particular GUI. The more GUIs you have, the more fragmented the development process becomes and the harder it is to provide decent QA and customer support. ("Are you using the UIQ version? Series 60? Series 80? Symbian^3? ...etc.") It's the exact same reason Linux has singularly failed to make major inroads into the desktop.

3. Qt is a step in the right direction, but it feels like too little, too late. It's also OS-neutral (in theory), so it neither helps nor hinders Symbian as such.

4. Symbian was designed in the 1990s for devices with very little power, and even fewer capabilities. It shows. It doesn't even support proper C++ exceptions, and has some major legacy support issues. It was great for its time, but its time is arguably over.

There's not much reason to choose Symbian over one of the umpteen UNIX clones or derivations out there. It offers little they don't provide, while offering said features through nasty, ugly, convoluted C++-on-crack APIs. Nokia have been making noises about shifting their smartphones to MeeGo—another Linux-derived OS—so who'd buy a Symbian smartphone now, knowing that none of the pitiful number of apps will be compatible with future models?

However, I'd be very wary of writing-off Symbian if Nokia can learn from both Google and Apple. Stronger, more consistent design is needed. Nokia have the resources to take their time getting it right. And their Series 40 GUI is still one of the best low-end mobile phone interfaces ever created.

Android is going to suffer badly from fragmentation if Google don't step in and lay down the law. The OS itself may be quite widespread, but—again—which versions are the most popular? Which form-factor? Is the display resistive? Capacitative? How many buttons are there? What's the resolution and aspect ratio? How likely is a manufacturer to provide updates to the OS? (Not very, by all accounts.) This car is veering unerringly towards Wintel PC territory, where the sheer range of hardware it runs on becomes a curse rather than a blessing.

iOS developers only have a tiny number of devices to test against, allowing for much more time to be spent on design than testing. It also radically reduces support costs, which are a major factor when your app is being sold for peanuts or ad revenues. Apple may not be flavour of the month, but there's method behind their control-freak madness.

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It's like asking a skunk to stop stinking

I have had the misfortune to use two Symbian phones - a Nokia E61 and Sony Ericsson Satio - neither's UI had any redeeming features to speak of. I doubt that the UI could be any worse if they tried.

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@Sean Timarco Baggaley

...pitiful number of apps....

You have obviously never explored the great expanse of software that is actually available for Symbian

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FAIL

Symbian docs

Recently I have been doing some work on Symbian and found it almost impossible to get any good information when I Google Symbian class names and/or error messages. Lots of broken links, links to long mail discussions of the style "I tried this and it didn't work. - Did you try this? - Doesn't work. - How about this? - No still doesn't work etc. etc." If I need information on Windows Mobile or Android I can usually find what I need in a couple of clicks.

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Anonymous Coward

Positives and Negatives.

Plus Points for Symbian.

+ Low power requirements. If you want your smart phone battery to be small and last for days OSi Android and Meego just won't cut it. Symbian can.

+ Navigation. More a Nokia advantage than a symbian one, but free down-loadable maps and navigation are a good hook especially with capped data plans. (You need to be connected to use google maps.)

+ Comes with Music. Again more a Nokia advantage, free to keep all you can download music deals. (Not well presented to the public, but could provide them with more 'stickiness')

Negatives for Symbian

- S60 UI is very dated. - Symbian ^4 is supposed to fix this (^3 was just the ground work).

- Hard to develop for. - The move to QT is supposed to fix this.

- Apps. - There are actually lots of them but finding them was not as easy as for other platforms . OVI is getting better here but still has a way to go.

- Developer Profit. - Again OVI (+QT) is supposed to fix this, plus that fact that Nokia take a smaller cut than Apple. Still needs to get moving while the user base is still much bigger than Apple and Android combined.

Basically the plans are fine but the execution and time are lacking. 2011 is the last chance, if Symbian and Meego fail Nokia probably have to fall back to being a volume handset maker for Android and say bye bye to their hopes of making money from the services business.

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