back to article Symbian channels iPhone love into Android scrap

Sure an iPhone could get you laid, but Symbian's biggest problem right now is its looming scrap with an Android. Symbian's got market share - around 50 per cent global smart phone operating systems and huge presences outside the US - but that market share's been slipping in the past 12 months. But in just two years, Apple …


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  1. IT specialist

    Symbian and WinMo both falling, Winmo will hit the dirt first

    Symbian and Windows Mobile are the two phone platforms that have a falling market share. Both were designed for use with stylus pens, rather than multi-touch. Both need to re-engineer their interfaces for multi-touch (HTC placing a cover over Windows Mobile in an attempt to hide WinMo as much as possible doesn't count).

    With 45-50% of the mobile market, Symbian has some falling space. Its huge market share provides some padding, and allows it time to sort itself out, and improve the interface to be more touchy-feely.

    Windows Mobile, on the other hand, is in a death spiral from which it cannot recover. WinMo's market share is falling very fast fast, but with just 8.8% market share (current Canalys estimate), WinMo is about to splatter on the tarmac. Most analysts, including Gartner, expect Microsoft to withdraw from the mobile market in 2010 or 2011. Windows Mobile is dead, so it's no wonder Microsoft can't find many developers to write applications for its deserted Mobile Marketplace.

    Although Windows Mobile is now finished, with no hope of revival, Symbian will soon have another competitor eating its lunch. That's the Linux-based Maemo phone OS. Both OSes have the same mother (Nokia), and Maemo is the preferred child. Being Linux-based, Maemo will probably receive more love from the open-source community.

  2. musojon74

    small correction...

    <pedant>The developer was Cyanogen and his Rom was Cyanogenmod. </pedant>

    On topic, I do rather like Symbian and it was a smart (essential) decision to open source. But every Symbian phone I've used has beenaggy in some way. Needs to be faster! (Lets get that kernel optimized :) )


  3. AdamR

    The real issue as a developer is platform neutrality

    To be honest, this concept of which platform will win out is a mute point. What is more critical to me as a developer is that the tool set I use allows me to write once and deploy to all 4 platforms.

    Currently the only company two platforms I am aware of that are attempting this is Nokia with their QT sdk and Adobe with their upcoming full Flash player 10.1/Air running on all smartphones , Flashbuilder 4 (natively compiles to iPhone) and Flex with the new Slider framework.

    As a developer I don't want to have to 'commit' to one platform. I want to be platform neutral, because seriously, what my application runs on is not important as long as I've written it once, I have one 'bug list' and it runs everywhere.

  4. david bates
    Thumb Down

    If Symbian is to succeed...

    ..then Nokia need to do something about Ovi.

    From what I've seen it's a bag of crap (search is poor, misleading error messages - the basics). Its the reason my next phone will probably not be a Nokia - it'll only be the second non-Nokia main handset I've ever owned if thats the case.

  5. Mondobobgo

    Symbian - Pah!

    If my experience at the show in October is anything to go by the Far East manufacturers are playing a very nifty game with Symbian and just stringing them along as one major player was demonstrating their latest and greatest Android devices behind their booths.

    Symbian has really lost the plot and is a long way from being a competitor with either WinMob, Apple or Android.

  6. Conrad Longmore

    It could be..

    It could be that developers don't want to write for Symbian because it's bloody awful to develop for.

    As for the future.. well, what does the Nokia N900 run? Not Symbian - it runs Maemo. Nokia are not stupid.

  7. BristolBachelor Gold badge
    Jobs Horns

    Suggestions for Nokia and Symbian

    Fix the bugs. Fix the bugs. Fix the bugs.

    If you want to know what they are, read the posts on the Nokia forum. Then FIX THE BUGS!!!

    All my digital only phones have been Nokia, mostly communicators. After my E90 I doubt I'll get another Nokia again for a long time (if ever).

    I'm so impressed with what my iPod touch can do apart from play music I'm going to marry the devil and get a Jesus phone.

  8. James 47

    Symbian apps?

    Nokia needs to allow its engineers release their own apps into the public space and to earn a bit of extra cash.

  9. Jacqui Smith's DVD Collection!

    Symbian have a problem

    There are hardly any free apps for their platform, and they have a fragmented platform!!

    S60 & UIQ are they compatible? fuck no, so shut the hell up Symbian!

  10. Anton Ivanov

    Re: Symbian and WinMo both falling, Winmo will hit the dirt first

    Right conclusion - wrong logic. It is the fallacy of "develop for today and ignore the trend".

    Both Windows Mobile and Symbian failed to correctly project the development of specialised chippery as well as software and silicon cost curves. As a result they spent a clinically insane amount of effort and money to make their OS-es work on a hypothetical target phone which has a very dumb radio and a large portion of the wireless stack runs on the main CPU. This appeals to both vendors and operators on some strange kinky low level which I have never managed to understand because it contradicts basic silicon economics. Investment into such a hard-realtime system has a constant cost (in fact increasing exponentially with complexity). It does not drop down with time like the cost of silicon and specialised systems.

    At the same time Google and Apple went for a play which was based on the real state of the silicon economics. Their bet was that the silicon for a specialised radio+stack will go down in price according to the general rules of economics. This is exactly what happened. Same for general purpose chippery for the main CPU.

    So Symbian is a dead man walking. So is WinMob. Both are zombies for the same reason - they have been so heavily bastardised to fit a hard realtime envelope that the development and maintenance now have a an ever-increasing cost associated to it which is much higher than Google or Apple cost basis. Google and Apple are already guaranteed to win the smartphone war on pure economical merit and the only thing that is going to change in the future will be the "border" between smart and dumb going down as Symbian/Winmob costs continue to stay constant (or even increase) while Google/Apple solutions costs continue going down according to basic laws of economics.

    That was something that was possible to forecast 5 years back. In fact, I have tried arguing this with mobile phone designers and all I saw was them going irrational and foaming at the mouth extolling the virtues of doing it hard hard hard realtime on a single piece of silicon. Oh well, it is their jobs down the line so it will be them paying for their delusions...

  11. treboR
    Jobs Horns

    I like S60 5th Edition

    I'm a bit biased because I'm used to symbian phones, but I really like the S60 5th edition touch interface. It seems a good balance between what "old" symbian users will be used to and adding new touchscreen features - you tap the clock and it brings up the alarm application. Tap the name of the current profile, up comes the list so you can choose. The only thing bugging me is that it's got one inconsistency, some items are tap-to-select, and some are tap-to-activate. I'd prefer it if they were all tap to select, double tap to activate. Symbian usually gives you "options" on one softkey and "OK" or similar on the other, tap to select allows that to carry on, and a fast tap-tap would be the same as pressing the centre of the navigation D-pad on the older interface.

    Anyway the fact that even on a low-end handset like the 5800 it can handle multiple applications at once, and doesn't dump me out if someone phones puts it ahead of the iPhone in my estimation.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The iPhone is a fanny magnet?

    They usually attract fannys. The ones that buy them

  13. spegru

    I hate to say I told you so....

    of course I love it really.....

    Back in 2004 I wrote that it would be 5 yrs before Linux (yes Android is a Linux, enough for the arguement) could threaten Symbian


    Wow that was some foresight. If only I could do that again.......

  14. Dirk Vandenheuvel

    Yeah right

    Seriously.. what normal consumer would by a non iPhone smartphone right now? Nobody in their right mind. Only tech geeks like us drool over different models and different OSes. For the people on the street there is only one smart phone.... and it is nothing Android. Apple will make sure new models will continue to draw in the punters... I have not seen any phone that can match the iPhone in consumer-magnetism.

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  16. Richard 102

    Excuse me?

    You're citing Gartner for their predictions? The people who predicted sweeping success for Vista and Zune? The ones who predicted Apple would go bankrupt because of OS X and the iPod, who poo-poo'd the iPhone?

    They've got a worse prediction record than NFL pundits on ESPN.

  17. Rob 50

    @musojon74 "Lets get that kernel optimized"

    The Symbian OS kernel was designed from day 1 for embedded applications so will always be more suited to efficient power limited environments than the monolithic Linux, no matter how much they might strip Linux down for Maemo/Android.

    It's been the grotesquely inefficient and forever bloating app-engine and UI layers (S60 and UIQ) that have let its performance down. So it's never really had a chance to shine, and it's starting to look like perhaps it never will.

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