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back to article Nokia puts Symbian out to pasture ... why not release it into the wild?

Symbian is now in 'maintenance mode', and Belle FP2 was its last ever update, Nokia Developer support is telling devs. This is hardly a surprise, but official confirmation of any kind has been elusive. As we exclusively revealed back in February, Nokia cancelled the entire roadmap of Symbian phones, leaving just one device: the …

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Anonymous Coward

Poor Nokia

" Nokia revealed yesterday that Symbian devices still managed to outsell Windows-powered Lumias, by 3.4 million to 2.9 million, in Q3."

This says everything about the fate of Nokia and Windows Phone devices...

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@AC

Nokia; yes, but Winphone... I'm not so sure.

Other companies (Samsung, HTC) also run a line of Windows phones and they're not into huge problems so it seems. Of course; they're also not betting all their money on a single horse.

Which is IMO the very essence of the problem: if you want to promote a largely unknown product you'll have to invest. A LOT. Advertising, marketing, promotions, etc. I did see a Nokia commercial coming around every now and then; but nothing from the competition.

The reason why I think this to be a big issue too? Because the Nokia phones have a very specific look to it; I guess you like it or you don't (I think they're ugly). So now what happens if you're interested in the WP7 environment, don't like the (advertised) Nokia's while you also don't know of other brands?

Then I think people turn to the competition again...

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Anonymous Coward

If they

Open sourced it, there would be so much development it would live again.

Nokia just stifled innovation of it.

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Re: @ShelLuser

" I did see a Nokia commercial coming around every now and then; but nothing from the competition."

I'll say it again: 'contractual obligation releases'. Every other producer of WP phones has succumbed to a patent shakedown from Microsoft, all with strictly secret terms. But obviously the phrase 'must vigorously market' wasn't part of the deal ;)

On a less speculative tack, given the astonishing amount US carriers, MS and Nokia have spent promoting Lumia for so little reward, it makes sense to just not bother pushing their own WP7/8 devices. The extraordinarily complete design lock down on WP7 devices means they cant have cost much to design and the Nokia brand is pretty diluted in the Lumia promotion - effectively it's just generic WP advertising in fact. Just hedge their bets and waste as little money as possible, only Nokia and MS are relying on success.

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Devil

How do you call a farmer who brings his best cow to the butcher?

A CEO.

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Anonymous Coward

The UI is not Symbian

Symbian - the company - stopped doing UIs some years ago. The Nokia S60 UI is not Symbian; Symbian is the operating sytem running underneath.

On another note, all of us here at Nokia knew that Elop was talking nonsense when he claimed that Symbian sales would decrease slowly, and I think he knew it as well.

Anon for obvious reasons.

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Terminator

Big Shame....

Having only experienced Symbian via my N8 it has indeed been an extremely usable device, I can't see whats so badly wrong with it personally & do hope it lives on somehow.

Heres hoping this announcement drops the price of the 808 even further as I still want one!

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Pint

Re: Big Shame....

Yep, if my N8 dies i'd get another or an 808 if they had dropped in price enough, dont really fancy lowering myself to a battery guzzling Android.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Big Shame....

Having only experienced Symbian via my N97 it has indeed been an extremely un-usable device, I can't see how they could have made it any worse.

The software was clunky and slow, devoid of any features and the choice in the app store was comical.

Switching to a battery guzzling Android was the best move I ever made, I did notice the new phone required charging more often but believe this is mostly down to me actually using it.

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Re: Big Shame....

You're both right.

I was a Symbian user for many years, the 7650, the 6600, N70, N95 and the infamous N97. I'm sure I've missed one.

Back in the early days it was simply superb, ground breaking in fact. Even the N95, which suffered from a shaky start (thanks to the availability of OTA updates making OS releases lazy and badly tested - we can fix it later) finally got its life in order.

Unfortunately they didn't learn from the N95's early days, and simply repeated the same with the N97, except they never did get it sorted, and various hardware problems doomed mine to be the only phone I replaced before the end of a contract.

Giving the networks control over OS update releases, and allowing them to customise them, was another huge mistake. Many later (aka fixed) versions never made it beyond the likes of Orange et al. It was possible to "jail-break" the phones and get them back to Vanilla firmware, but it was involved and beyond most.

IIRC, my N95 is currently running V31, most network tied handsets didn't make it beyond V12, and it is a great backup phone with wifi and Opera mini browser if required, sure it's not a touch screen, but 99% of the time you just want a phone and maybe an mp3 player (which the microSD handles perfectly). It does both perfectly. In an emergency you can web browse and it still has full offline maps (something I still miss).

So yes, rather a quaint OS, but functional in most incarnations, and it still had a trick no other smartphone OS has so far matched, namely the ability to go for many days without running for a charger!

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Thumb Up

Re: Big Shame....

> ...namely the ability to go for many days without running for a charger!

See that there is the big plus for Symbian.

It (like EPOC before it) is designed to run on mobile devices with ultra low power requirements.

Whether or not the UI on top of it is good or not, it is a great base from which to build.

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Re: Big Shame....

"and it still had a trick no other smartphone OS has so far matched,"

The other trick is seamless full 2-way call recording even over bluetooth kit. With 3rd party apps this can be done FULLY AUTOMATIC! Which is a HUGE cost and time saver. No more taking notes or calling back because you couldn't jot down the notes etc... Just record the call and replay it later when needed.

Invaluable for evidence (warranty claims, insurance, call centers), for technical inquiries ( installation instructions, customer repair instructions etc.) and for every road warrior needing to take notes while driving.

I just can't understand why so many people simply disregard this as being not important. It's the most crucial thing as a professional communications tool.

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What are smoking?

There is no way that Elop will release Symbian into the wild. It would continue to outsell Winphone.

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Needed Correction, me thinks.

I believe the Nokia Develop Support blog amended its first statement by saying the following:

"...When we were talking about maintenance mode we were referring to our earlier Symbian releases. We do have new feature development for PureView 808 product and we periodically evaluate what updates are needed to attract the end users."

I think this comment is relevant to what was previously stated in your above article.

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But what if it succeeded?

> underneath the crufty UI and bloat, there's still a remarkably reliable, low-power, real-time OS kernel. Nokia could do worse than release it into the wild

That would be a reasonable proposition if the company knew that the code was irredeemably awful and the people who saw it commented along the lines of "Wow, Nokia did a brilliant job of keeping it going as long as they did".

However, if it turned out that a collection of talented fans could turn a pigs ear into a silk purse, then questions would be asked inside Nokia, as to why their multi-billion $$ company couldn't do what a bunch of unpaid fanbois could (though the answer is in the question),

So, there's a huge potential risk to whoever was running the Symbian business, and no tangible benefit to that person. So: better to bury it, whistle innocently and claim "there's nothing to see here" than to open yourself up to embarrassing questions that can never be adequately answered.

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Go

Move on and let it die

The clever engineers who created the "remarkably reliable, low-power, real-time OS kernel" should move on and apply their expertise to turn Android, iOS or Win8 into remarkably reliable, low-power OSs. Whining for the past doesn't create a better future.

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Re: Move on and let it die

They have indeed all moved on - London was the development centre for Psion then Symbian and London was completely transferred to Accenture last October, and the final set of redundancies happened around July this year. So there is noone from the original crew left. Where did they all go? - check out LinkedIn and you'll see lots of interesting nooks filled from big (TomTom, ARM, Google, Broadcom) to boutique. But afaik very few went to other OS companies, partly perhaps because not there's little of it in the UK.

Anecdote that went round the grapevine: earlier this year a meeting was called in London by a manager from Finland and he was perplexed that so few people bothered to attend his important meeting. Someone gently informed him that the Elopcalypse hadn't left many standing...

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Linux

Re: Move on and let it die

That's if the likes of Apple would allow someone to bring in outside ideas into their perfect little world. I imagine Microsoft would be a little more open to that, and Google much more so. But the "infighting" that apparently plagued Nokia developing its own OS to succeed Symbian are certainly not unique to Nokia.

I would say that the people at Nokia should all be made to pull their heads out of their arses and make a mobile OS to succeed Symbian a reality. We need innovation in the industry, because that will make Apple, Microsoft and Google improve their respective OSs much more speedily than a bunch of Symbian developers dangling that carrot in front of the people they'd see for interviews.

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Re: Move on and let it die

@ Mongo - Sir, any clues as to what happened to the hardware team who developed Psion's keyboards?

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Re: Move on and let it die

The clever engineers who created the "remarkably reliable, low-power, real-time OS kernel" should move on and apply their expertise to turn Android, iOS or Win8 into remarkably reliable, low-power OSs.

That's not how it works. Symbian is reliable and efficient in large part because it makes it more difficult for application developers to be stupid and lazy. Android, iOS, and Win8 are all based on permissive, feature-rich kernels that have huge APIs, significant portions of which are not well-suited to promoting either reliability or efficiency. You could only make them like Symbian by paring down the kernels and APIs. (Microsoft has indeed done some of this with Win8, for example in removing some synchronous APIs in favor of asynchronous flavors.)

Personally, I think bloated, general-purpose OSes for phones are a mistake, but that's because I choose to use my (Symbian) phone for a specific set of functions that it is well-suited for, and not as a general-purpose computer, which is what most "smartphone" owners appear to want. So that group gets what they wish for.

Whining for the past doesn't create a better future.

Ignoring the past and its successes doesn't do us any good either.

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Boffin

Re: But what if it succeeded?

My sentiments exactly.

Not only the embarrassment, but why on Earth would Nokia seed a possible competitor?

Assuming the core OS itself wasn't the problem, it has features uniquely suited to cell phones. If anybody managed to make it work in phones, say some Chinese hardware outfit, wouldn't Nokia be one of the first to feel the added competition?

What, exactly, would the upside be for Nokia in all this? I understand a company open sourcing their programs when they have no intention to compete in that market anymore. Or if they want to compete precisely by leveraging open source to polish their offering (HP with WebOS?).

But that's not case here, for better or worse - Nokia is still doing phones and their boss says it will be Winphones.

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Angel

Re: Move on and let it die

The design was outsourced to a satellite design consultancy and happily they're still going strong:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/06/26/psion_special/page7.html

So pester the phone maker of your choice to quit hammering the monoblock touch factor quite so hard and go get one of those fantastic folding sliding tilting affairs. Office productivity will plummet - many a meeting I passed happily opening and closing a Revo, feeling the curve glide out. Of course that meant I was disengaged from whatever corporate ephemera the meeting concerned and letting my mind freewheel ... so maybe productivity will soar?

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Re: Move on and let it die

If Android, iOS and WP can record phonecalls then wake me up. Otherwise don't bother with your crap!

And no I don't want to hack/root/crack/jailbreak/whatever, I'm willing to BUY an APP but that's as far as I want to go!

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Boffin

Re: Move on and let it die

iOS and Android are what they are, bloated macro kernel OS based on UNIX/Linux concepts. iOS & Android developers are not going to scrape the core of the OS and re-write it from scratch. That though is the only way to get an efficient, secure, low power, reliable and low footprint OS.

Symbian was developed from a OS especially designed from ground up for a single user running multiple small applications in tiny memory on battery powered cpu.

UNIX was designed for mains powered Mini-computers and multiple users. Linux was designed as a functional clone for the 386 CPU with disk storage. It's only because a mobile phone is more powerful and more storage than a 2001 Laptop that iOS or Android is practical at all.

Symbian OS developers are going to want to work on ARM embedded systems, not iOS and Android phones.

Symbian *was* open source for a while. How they get the genie back in the bottle? An embedded controller or other application using a Raspberry Pi needs none of GUI junk that Nokia built on top of Symbian. If you DON'T have screen on the Pi, then VXworks, QNX, or Symbian may make more sense than Llinux which needs a hacked kernel to be "real time". Set-boxes, TVs, WiFi points and Routers can cheerfully use vanilla Linux as there are no "Real Time" constraints or "deterministic at compile time" requirements.

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FAIL

So, that's it from Psion then?

Looks like it's really the end of an era, in that sense. Sniff.

You can see why Nokia execs would not be interested in Open Sourcing it, because they would see it as giving something to help the competition... but if "the community" did manage to pick it up and run with it, they would still be able to benefit from that down the line. And if (when?) things don't work out so well with that Microsoft partnership, there could be a safety net.

But how would you be able to explain that to Nokia execs? These are the people that have gotten the company into such a mess (and I do mean "gotten" for a reason, as it's mostly the arrogant shouty American side of the company who have made most of the stupid decisions.)

Sigh.

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@Steve

wrt Psion: my thoughts exactly!

"You can see why Nokia execs would not be interested in Open Sourcing it, because they would see it as giving something to help the competition."

Considering the state Nokia is in right now I think their main motivation is a financial one: giving it away doesn't earn them any money. If they hang onto it and some interested parties offered to buy the licenses from them it would somewhat help them reduce the major damages to the company.

I agree that the odds are slim, but the alternative is a guarantee that they won't make any money at all.

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Anonymous Coward

I suspect there are many Nokia patented algorithms and other such things buried in the code.

It's like saying Microsoft should release the MSDOS source code.

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Anonymous Coward

"It's like saying Microsoft should release the MSDOS source code"

What would anyone use it for ?

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Re: "It's like saying Microsoft should release the MSDOS source code"

"What would anyone use it for?"

Believe it or not, a lot. Or at least back in the day, free flavours of MSDOS compatible operating systems were being used extensively for embedded electronics. It enabled the use of standard development tools on standard PCs to write software (firmware) for these boxes.

It pretty much made the day for not only commercial operators, but home DIY'ers because you didn't have to buy a new dev tool, nor learn a new language.

Microsoft didn't HAVE to release any code (nor would they have) as there was at least a couple of free alternatives to choose from anyway - this made all of it possible. In fairy land, if Microsoft DID release it, we would have had options open up even sooner and wider.

Not quite the same deal with sybian though, unless you're already set up for writing software for symbian, but a cheap OS for small devices is always welcome - just because an OS was originally designed for a phone, doesn't mean it MUST be used in phones, there's lots of need for small computing, and sybian would fill that need.

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This post has been deleted by its author

That one decision to dump Symbian and take Windows was what forced me to dump Nokia after being a loyal customer for over 10 years. I was thinking at the time whether to get the Nokia N8 or Samsung Galaxy S 1, and I was erring towards the N8, until that announcement, after which I decided to abandon Nokia forever. The latest Symbian Nokia phone with a 45 megapixel camera is actually pretty good, if only they'd stuck with Symbian and made it better! Android for me all the way now!

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Anonymous Coward

@ Glostermeteor:

Unfortunatlely the SGS 1 can't record calls. The N8 CAN even with the build in voice recorder. This is of utter importance for me.

In fact I went from Windows Mobile (Samsung Omnia 1) to Nokia S^3 (C7-00) and (701)

I tried a Lumia 800 (miserable piece of crap), I tried a few Androids (Galaxy Mini II, Xperia U, SGSII) and in the end just kept going back to the 701.

Fast, stable, full callrecording, no cloudcrap, easy to sideload apps (and plenty of stuff to find) and it doesn't cost an arm and a leg (no pun intended)

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Anonymous Coward

Howto drawing from the user manual

Are they implying that their users are chinless wonders?

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Re: Howto drawing from the user manual

I was thinking that line-art image could be representing a man from almost any continent. Given Nokia's markets, that's a good thing.

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Boffin

Symbian pre-re-closing from 2010 is still around

Symbian licensed under the Eclipse Public License is available. The Carbide IDE for Symbian appears to be downloadable from Nokia. The Symbian Build System is on bitbucket.

http://symbiandump.sourceforge.net/

http://www.developer.nokia.com/info/sw.nokia.com/id/dbb8841d-832c-43a6-be13-f78119a2b4cb.html

https://bitbucket.org/tnmurphy/raptor

Knock yourselves out. Not being a Symbian developer, I don't know what else is required. I guess GCC for compiling.

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Re: Symbian pre-re-closing from 2010 is still around

Problem is that it's badly out of step with the Belle SDK tool set (new revisions of compilers, changes to global macro sets, etc) so bugger-all compiles. Really what would be lovely is a complete dump of the system build environment from a successul build.

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Re: Symbian pre-re-closing from 2010 is still around

And not everything was compilable with gcc - ARM RVCT was the compiler used for targets so of course compiling cleanly on that was required, with gcc compatibility being desired but not mandated - with the predictable result that many teams deferred it to "tomorrow".

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Happy

Re: Symbian pre-re-closing from 2010 is still around

If it's going to be recycled as a lean RTOS (with optionally a sensible new GUI for things that need one) you don't need to be able to "build" anything "Belle" compatible. In fact you want to avoid like plague ANYTHING using existing Nokia GUIs over last 10 years. You only want the OS

As to what should be a layer for graphical / User I/O applications I don't know. I've tried building QT based applications for Window / Linux and found Java cross platform GUI libraries better. Not that I think that's a good idea. despite that Android is essentially Linux + a flavour of Java (Davik vs JVM)

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Gimp

And so here it is...

I loved each and every Symbian device I have ever had. Robust, never crashed and never needed a reboot. It was easy ti install apps from whatever source I trusted.

My last Symbian device was the Nokia E61 and then I went to the iPhone. Why oh why!? Took me ages to realise the error of my ways. Then, out of the frying pan into the fridge, I went to Windows Phone 7. Now I'm a Fandroid. But Symbian will always have a place in my heart.

Seeing Symbian go like this is like watching an ex girlfriend having a tough time with her current partner; nothing to do with me, but I still feel kind of bad.

Bye then Symbian.

You rocked.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And so here it is...

Eh? Each and every Nokia Symbian phone I have had has been as useless as every other Android / Windows device I have ever had. My present phone - a Nokia E71 crashes constantly and needs frequent reboots.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And so here it is...

You guys don't know how to use Symbian. If I gave you my 701 and let you play with it (I've streamlined it to my liking) or you spend one day with me then you'd NEVER get rid of a Symbian device!

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Anonymous Coward

"Nokia E71 crashes constantly " ?????

" My present phone - a Nokia E71 crashes constantly and needs frequent reboots."

There are many E71 users who will be puzzled by this statement.

My E71 is the best phone I've ever used. I do have an Android, but its main role at the moment is as a portable DAB substitute. It's not used as a phone.

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They've released it into the wild once already though

And nothing much happened. Most of the Symbian hacker/homebrew scene (whatever you want to call it) has since wondered off to MeeGo or Android or Android via MeeGo and I doubt they'd come back.

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Anonymous Coward

Not gonna happen.

I only see reasons why they wouldn't do it, and no reasons why they would. All it's going to bring them is costs and tacit admittance they were doing it wrong before. This is not to say it's no good for the rest of us, just that there's no upside for nokia for their putting the required effort into it.

But perhaps one could try and obtain the source for a song and open source it then. Andrew, fancy starting a kickstarter project? Just don't forget the hardware support for actual shipped phones.

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Balls, balls, balls!

"sales of Symbian devices fell of a cliff."

and:

"Nokia revealed yesterday that Symbian devices still managed to outsell Windows-powered Lumias, by 3.4 million to 2.9 million, in Q3."

Shouldn't the investors and shareholders demand the CEOs balls on a plate, lightly fried, and covered with a thin layer of Yakitori sauce? I mean, come on, isn't the message ridiculously clear?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Balls, balls, balls!

I guess the shareholder's brains are also dumbed to accenture.

Are there actually any shareholders left at Nokia? And I don't mean mindless financial holdings or faceless dummy corporations.

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Boffin

Obsolete Nokia

Nokia has it's own path with me. It is on the obsolete path. My current set of Nokia phones are my last Nokia phones. Unless they go back to Symbian Os. I am never going to buy Nokia Windows phones. I am not stupid and I do not trust Windows on any platform.

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I don't think it would be advisable to cut loose Symbian in the current IP climate. Let's just imagine some IP litigation outfit gets to examine the source and claims all matter of copyright infringement.

Nokia has enough trouble right now. They don't need to expose themselves to infringement cases.

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Unfortunately I think you're right

Though perhaps not in this particular detail - the earlier Symbian Foundation publication of source already gives quite enough insight to bring a suit ("three years ago you did X in a way that infringes. Your product still does X - we assert you still infringe")

The killer is just the effort to re-publish: when the SF released the source there was a large and ongoing effort to check the code classifications, make sure 3rd party IP wasn't inadvertently released, etc, and then fix up all the resulting build breaks (eg where a header mixed public and proprietary source and so was not released, then some other public source depending upon that header will break). With the shuttering of SF of course that ceased and now nobody would be very confident that it's in good state. And there's plenty of source Nokia might choose not to release such as compelling apps (eg Maps) and the baseports for specific devices (likely to contain chipset vendor IP). So Nokia would need to assign some staff to work through similar contortions (and those that were best suited for this are already long gone) for a good-will gesture that's almost certainly too late - the developer/hobbyist community that once surrounded Psion and then Symbian has moved on to new projects.

SF was working on some hobbyist baseports such as Beagle Board so some heroes might try one for RaspberryPi but as the graphics stack has some closed-source blobs this would need Broadcom to do a Symbian port.

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Holmes

Copyright infringement wouldn't stick except if Nokia had hoovered-up or osmosed-in substantial portions of actual code from elsewhere (since the Daryl Disaster, we know that comments that nearly are the same and well-known constants like 0 and 1 can indeed be used in your own code without infringing copyright.

You are of course thinking of the lobbying would-be monopolist's warhorse and economic retardation device, the "patent". Would lurking patent mines become activated (in areas within reach of the EPO and the USPTO)? Maybe. But if I understand well, nothing has happened with earlier publications of old Symbian Source Code.

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