back to article Nokia: Keep codin' for Symbian and Qt!

Is Nokia wobbling over its commitment to Windows? Or just stringing along the Symbian and Qt faithful? The cell-phone giant has published a lengthy open letter pleading with coders to keep building apps for phones running Symbian and Qt - at least in the short term. Purnima Kochikar, vice president of Nokia's community …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Look Nokia

    Just move to Android.

    Resistance is futile :D

  2. John G Imrie Silver badge

    Let me see if I've got this right

    One part of Nokia want's developers to continue developing for a system Nokia has said it's abandoning and another wants them to develop for a system with minimum market share and a release date on Nokia's phones 2 years down the line.

    Yeah right, time to find another platform then.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Their own worst enemy

    I recently upgraded to a Nokia N8. I wasn't expecting to be impressed, but I am. I prefer it to my old HTC Android phone. The N8 seems to be excellent in all respects. It looks like just as Nokia are getting it right with their smartphones they're throwing in the towel with the move to Windows Phone 7 (yuck).

    Nokia are their own worst enemy. Just as they are getting something right they are going to can it.

    1. Michael

      yep great phone

      Nokia sent me one to apologise for cancelling training on Qt due to the MS announcement. The phone has far better reception and battery life. It has been quite nice to play with. Pity it is now not worth switching to Qt.

    2. MacroRodent Silver badge

      Their own worst enemy? Exactly!

      It seems to me one of Nokia's worst mistakes was Meego. Instead of continuing with Maemo, which was really starting to mature into a great OS with N900, their Linux project was diverted into rewriting almost everything, pissing off developers both internally and externally, not to mention the N900 customers that suddenly had a dead-end product in their hands. Imagine what a Maemo-based successor of N900 could have been? Makes one weep :-(

  4. Thomas 4

    Why Windows Phone is at odds with Nokia

    I used to be a keen follower of all things Symbian many years ago, back when Nokia were pushing out handsets like the 9300, 6630, N90 and all the other numerical gibberish. While the phone's names were a great way to give yourself a headache trying to remember them all, what they *did* have was diversity. All manner of sizes, shapes, number pads, control nubs - you could be pretty certain that there was something that would suit you. Now Windows Phone comes along and demands that manufacturers adhere to very strict hardware specifications and Nokia winds up with a set of phones barely distinguishable from the other Windows Phones out there.

    I can't comment on whether Windows Phone is a good platform or not - I haven't used it. I can't help but wonder though that if Nokia had gone with Android, would they still have that same diversity they used to have?

  5. JohnG Silver badge

    Killing the goose...

    Maybe their new leader only just realised that they are the global market leader and that this was achieved using Symbian.

    1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

      Symbian was end-of-life regardless

      Maemo (then MeeGo) was to take over. Word was that Symbian couldn't cost-effectively scale up to the next generation of hardware (multi-CPU systems, perhaps) - major rewrites would have been required, and at the end of it, the new Symbian would be at best marginally more efficient than Linux; at worst, it would be completely unstable.

      MeeGo was absolutely not ready for market. This Summer's handset launch would appear to be a repeat of the N900 - a phone for enthusiasts and hackers, but not mainstream-ready: more Android 1.6 than iPhone 1.0.

      That only left a buy-in OS. Of the two options, one look at the profit margins "enjoyed" by the Android licencees should have been enough to swing the deal, but MS obliged with a cheque for a couple of billion too.

      Personally, I really like Qt, and I think QtQuick/QML is the best way to put together a UI I've seen in years - you code up your model and engine (if you even need one), and you can almost hand the UI tweaking over to a web-designer type.

  6. Tom Chiverton 1

    cracked ?

    MS hasn't 'cracked' updating Windows PCs yet ! Why do you think every single application has it's own unique and different update infrastructure ? The guys over the fence in Linux land have had version and dependency checking repositories for a decade or more. That's 'cracked'.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Damn straight

    > We would argue that the safest place for Symbian and Qt devs is on Android.

    And that's where lots of us are going, but it's an uphill struggle with many of us having invested years in what has just turned into a dead-end platform...

    There ought to be some kind of benevolent fund for ex-Symbian hackers.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Whither/dither Nokia

    "I've been asked many times how long we will support Symbian and I'm sure for many of you it feels we have been avoiding the question. The truth is, it is very difficult to provide a single answer."

    This is why Nokia fails as a company. "We can't give any straight answer because we either don't know (Woah, who's steering the ship? Nobody?!) or my division hasn't been told what the strategy is because it's the board's super-secret special strategy, whatever that is."

    "We would argue that the safest place for Symbian and Qt devs is on Android."

    Indeed. When Nokia and Microsoft's business in the mobile space has finally been reduced to patent trolling, there'll be a bunch of people using Qt stuff on Android and benefiting from Nokia's investment in that technology. And at that point the clueless Nokia execs, instead of thinking "Maybe we can benefit from that, too!" will instead be wondering whether there's money to be made in suing everyone instead. And when that game gets rained off, it'll be sad faces all round and whining about how Google has ruined it for everybody.

    1. jotheberlock

      You can still write Qt apps on Android

      Fortunately, there is a port of Qt for Android. You need not throw all that knowledge away. :)

  9. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They simply try to save pitiful sales of Symbian devices...

    ... after announcing Microsoft alliance. And Purnima is not alone trying to fix Nokia's PR disaster (BTW, it is _she_, Kochikar is a woman...) Jo Harlow recently also voiced long term perspective for Symbian...

  11. Tom 35 Silver badge

    Windows phone

    Going from .0001 to .01 in one year would make it the fastest growing platform...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Halo


    "offer a strong portfolio of Symbian products during the transition period to Windows Phone during 2011 and 2012."

    The only reason to buy a dead end product is if you're not aware it's dead end. So some sales will continue to unaware buyers.

    Why though would developers bother with a soon to be extinct product?

    As stated by El Reg, better to move to developing Android apps (or iOS).

    1. Geoff Mackenzie

      Yeah, but

      that's an optimistic forecast.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo

    Android? Are you mad?

    Of course Nokia wants people to keep developing for Symbian. It has to be able to punt Ovi for the coming two years too and it needs the number of apps rising.

    And of course developers are not going to fall for this. Not because Nokia is a bunch of lying bastards (which is true, but irrelevant as this is strictly business), but because of opportunity costs.

    And with Android apps not making any kind of money, developers are going to iOS.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Too little, too late.

    They're fucked.

  15. Jess

    Symbian - open sourced

    Doesn't it mean that other companies could continue to use Symbian in their products?

    Also won't people hold onto their N8 phones for years, like with the 6310?

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Hmm, what did this open letter do to the NOK price...

    Yes - it went up about 3% over the weekend!

    Shame that's still down by 16%. I'm impressed - very few CEOs survive a single-statement plunge that knocks that much off the value of the company.

    As to the devs - we've all left. Yep, all of us.

    The desktop commercial licensors have been sold to Digia.

    The phone devs are moving to Android, using the Qt port to Android. There's also some work on a port to Apple IOS.

    Not many people would develop for a <5% market share, and it's not going to get much bigger now that MS knocked a hole in their platform.

    - The IDC forecast is clearly rubbish, given that they've heaped Windows Mobile 6 in with Windows Phone 7, Symbian in with Symbian^3 and then assumed that everyone with a Symbian or Symbian^3 phone is going to go straight for a Windows Phone 7. Even if it means going from 7-10 day battery to 1-2 day battery...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I received that developer email... Came as a shock (not just the content), I had completely forgotten I had signed up as a developer years ago. I gave up very quickly when I discovered how disjointed their reference documents were, and how flakey the IDE was (even getting it installed was a mission).

    Then suddenly out of the blue comes this letter, denying the ship is sinking. Maybe if they had paid a bit more attention to developers in the past it might have made us feel a bit more inclined to work with their platform.

    As it is, the email came a bit late. I jumped from the ship the month before the leak was made official and am now working on my first two commercial Android applications.

  18. richard_w

    Downward Spiral

    Elop has a mountain to climb. He comes from a bureaucratic environment into an even more bureaucratic environment, and is trying to turn Nokia into Apple. There are probably 20 different committees who are all trying to stop him.

    This in turn means that any phone with windows on will take Nokia longer to produce than he hoped.

    Add that to Microsoft's inability to produce decent software in a timely way, and the restrictions they place on partners who want to make phones using their software, and it may be years before we see a nokia phone running windows 7.

    Possible 2 years. This is a lifetime in this industry. Meantime what does Nokia sell?. They have no option but to continue to develop and support Symbian.

    But who will buy it? and will the symbian developers (who have not been made redundant) be prepared to stay before the burning platform sinks? When you RIF staff, its never the superstars. There is always a role for them, but in this case the better Nokia developers are currently voting with their feet. Developers are delicate souls and these ones don't like the closed nature of Windows and microsoft.

    All this spells trouble for Nokia.

    It begins to look as if Elops decision was about as bad a decision as could be made.

    Nokia will continue to lose market share dramatically to Apple and Android platforms at the high profit margin smartphone end, and will continue to see erosion of their position at the low end from cheap mobiles made in china and other places east.

    It may be too late to go android, it probably was not the right decision anyway(although less bad than windows phone 7).

    If I were he (god forbid), I would run an internal competition between windows and erm... well an OS they already own. And give several sackfuls of dosh to the winner, providing that the winner was of prime time quality , oh, and I would set a time limit. Dont know how long because I don't know their numbers, but it would be less than 2 years, thats for damn sure. Remember what is needed, a good phone with good app. capability running an OS with good development potentialcome to think of it, android fits that bill. Nokia have always made phones which work and work well, android satisfies the criteria, but is a bit rough around the edges. maybe it's not too late

    Even better, make the competition between Windows and Android. Nothing like backing 2 horses, and Nokia is big enough

    The main issue for Elop is getting the bureaucracy under control

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Only differance between Nokia and the Titanic

    The captain of the Titanic didn't think the passengers were stupid enough not to know the ship was sinking - Nokia is hoping their customers are.

    All this posturing is simple - Nokia needs to retain their customer base so that when they start selling Windows phone 100% of their customers will buy one(according to ICD).

    Here is what a loyal Nokia owner who needs a phone in the next year or two says to himself. Nokia really screwed me over but what the hell, I'll buy a smart phone that has no future, an every decreasing application portfolio and even Nokia thinks is a waste of time.

    Hell - I'll buy two.

    The future is clear, Nokia sinks just about as fast as the Titanic, Microsoft buys cheap what is left of the company - saying they are finishing their rescue (rape) of the company and Microsoft can be just like Apple..

  20. Chris O'Shea
    Thumb Up

    Symbian future

    "The only reason to buy a dead end product is if you're not aware it's dead end."

    I bought my Sony PlayStation2 not knowing whether there would be a PS3, and it worked perfectly fine for me. Similarly I bought a CRT television years ago not knowing that it would be a dead end product, but it worked for over ten years with no problems.

    I have a Nokia E71, a Nokia E72 and a Nokia C7 ... all great in their own way (though my C7 is annoying, brilliant at many things, but terrible at others ... not bad enough to give up on yet though!) ... and Nokia want to sell probably another 150 million Symbian devices on top of the several hundred million Symbian devices out there.

    There are *more* Symbian devices in use than there are iPhones or Android devices ... so if you can write a good application, then there's a larger potential market *and* larger potential profit ... so that's why you'd want to at least consider continuing to develop apps for the next year or so, to sell to maybe 2-400 million Symbian device users. Last year Morgan Stanley predicted the number of iPhone users could reach 100 million by the end of 2011, a number lower that already exists for Symbian users.

    Sure if your app is going to take two years to write, then you're probably better looking elsewhere ... otherwise it's not so obvious why you'd turn your back on 200 million potential customers and the largest installed base of smartphone users ...

    ... having said which, my next phone is very likely to be Android :-) (or an iPhone 5!)

    1. Arbuthnot Darjeeling

      i think it's not

      the size of the installed base of symbian users that matters

      but the rate at which those owners are upgrading...

      if they all keep their handsets for the next 5 years, fine

      but i get offered a new handset every 12 - 18 months.

      The next nokia i get won't be symbian.

      You also write as if symbian were symbian were symbian

      but i've never found 2 nokias with exactly the same implementation

      - finding apps for your handset's flavour of symbian can be frustrating

      1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Yep, "Symbian" used to mean many things...

        ... and before direct-to-public app stores arrived, this didn't matter much.

        On the bright side, since Symbian^3 there is finally a unified platform: C6, C7, E7 and N8 are all the same build target, and have broadly comparable feature sets. Granted, if you need to do something device specific, you're going to have to re-code, but the proliferation of platforms has been dealt with. Qt also supports Symbian^1, but that's a much less capable platform.

        As a by-the-way: loose-lipped mobile industry people mention that operators have already been shown N8s with a major UI overhaul...... and a good thing too. My N8 is a great phone and Symbian^3 is a very good OS, but the initial user experience is just too plain for today's consumers.

  21. John Hughes

    Selling QT

    " See if you can spot Green's mention of how Nokia's going to sell Qt to Digia. Clue: he doesn't."

    Maybe because they didn't?

  22. bamalam

    Elop was/is clueless

    They could have got MeeGo working like a dream by the time they have their first prototype Windows phone out. This would also have re-invigorated Ovi and given developers a better chance of margin than Android apps. They have something great in Qt and they are just blowing it.

    I imagine we are going to see a sharp decline in Symbian device sales - why buy into a dead platform. Very sad.

  23. shane fitzgerald

    Qt as a button

    So ive been developing on the side using Qt over the past few months and heres some thoughts.

    Qt its self is a fantastic framework to use with C++..or python.. And its been a pure please to work with. Devloping apps for maemo is simple and works well....then you get to symbian

    the whole symbian thing although ive heard is much improved is still so damn awkward. Symbian signing is just about one of the most frustrating processes ever and i spent almost as much time on that as app devloping :)

    then there is the dreaded smart installer - this pushes the qt librarys required by your app to the symbian phone. I can see why nokia did this in one sense as it means you only download the ones you need. But the whole lot is only about 10mb so who cares? Maybe this is a big thing in the devloping markets but they dont really sell qt phones here. Qt should be an update for the phones before allowed use ovi. That way developers do not get crap ratings because of nokias ever failing smart installer which only seems to work 50pc of the to time.

    It is true there are a lot more symbian phones around than other types. But symbian is on many low end phones that do not support Qt. The only peple going to buy your apps are those with maybe N8s or a handful of others. I own the N900 and use it as my main phone it beats the socks of my iphneand my wifes htc android. But im a nerd.

    So i stuck with it just to finish a small project to enter into the $10M developer competition. But thats it. I certainly won be heding to windows.

    My next move was android but the piracy has now put me off. So its off to join the isheep next. Besides by the time im finished there hopefully lighthouse/neccesitas will be complete and i can now develop android ndk apps easily in qt.

    And who knows maybe nokia will have given up on the ms rubbish and returned to Meamo/meego. In my dreams maybe.....

  24. xperroni

    Just shoot it already for God's sake

    You know, every time I hear of Nokia encouraging Symbian / Qt developers to Keep Calm & Carry On, touting all the brilliant updates it will ship presently, I get this mental picture of a pet, sick and wounded beyond all hope – yet its owner refuses to put it down, insisting on pointless interventions that only prolong its agony.

    Damn Nokia, just get your act together and end the pain!

  25. Eldnah

    Microkia ...

    "Microkia" -- perfect! Small, and croaking.

  26. Jaymax


    "What I can promise you is that we will not just abandon Symbian users or developers," Kochikar says.

    Which I'd say is 100% true. Long before the time Nokia could come up with a coherent strategy for abandoning it's devs (or a strategy for not abandoning them) users and dev's will have long since abandoned Nokia.

    However, having observed the race between Novell NDS and MS Dir Svcs (ie: in the beginning a really capable network directory product vs a myth followed by a pile of shite, eventually followed by a decent system, but still (I think, been out of it for about 3 yrs) lacking some of the best aspects of NDS), who's to really say what the future holds...

    Nokia: asphixiated in a cloud of MS FUD.

  27. Alan Firminger

    I told you so

    MS are bodgers.

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