Symbian to rule the world

The Smartphone show at Earls Court saw Symbian celebrating its tenth anniversary of the event. To mark its success, Symbian was keen to discuss the development of the Symbian Foundation, a united group being pulled together from across the mobile industry to push the Symbian operating system into ever more handsets.

The 10 founding members of the Foundation, which include AT&T, LG Electronics, Motorola, Nokia, NTT DOCOMO, Samsung Electronics, Sony Ericsson, ST-NXP Wireless, Texas Instruments and Vodafone, were joined on the first day of the Smartphone show with 12 new members, taking the total up to over 50.

Symbian recently announced a new executive director for the Foundation, Lee Williams, currently head of the S60 organisation in Nokia’s devices business. Williams will start his new role on 1 January.

Jerry Panagrossi, vice president and general manager for North America operations at Symbian, stated that he expects Symbian to be the de facto standard for all smartphones in the future, thanks to the coming efforts of the Foundation.

He commented: “Our vision now is to see Symbian operating system to become the most widely used operating system on the planet. This is a new era,” claimed Panagrossi. “Even back in 1998, Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia invested in this platform as they saw a shift in the market towards data services. This year on 2 June, Nokia announced its intention to acquire Symbian and also to establish the Symbian Foundation. This will extend the Symbian operating system like no other. “

The Symbian operating systems that are now prevalent in the market are Nokia’s S60, NTT DoCoMo and Fujitsu’s MOAP, and UIQ which since 2007 has been owned in a 50/50 share by Motorola and Sony Ericsson. The Symbian Foundation is set to pull these interfaces together alongside Symbian into a unified platform, to provide the same standardised base with the upper layers still open to customisation.

A seamless handoff from Symbian to the Foundation, including regular code drops, is set for the first half of 2009, around the end of the first quarter according to Panagrossi.

As for its competition, Panagrossi was confident that Symbian had nothing to worry about. He stated on the most recent launch into the market, Google’s Android: “Android is an unproven entity. We’ve done the heavy lifting ion the market already with over 226 million Symbian phones shipped over the last 10 years. We know the problems that Google is going to run into and we’re passed that now. Eight years ago we carved out the smartphone space for ourselves. According to Gartner, Symbian now has 57% of smartphone global market share, and 60% according to Canalys.”

Yet it is not all plain sailing, stated Panagrossi: “It’s the proprietary platforms that are the problem,” he continued. “Proprietary platforms are being crushed by the requirements of the market. They have reached end of life now. But even so, some companies are trying to hold onto their babies. Others are recognising it’s time to move onto another platform, but out of around 1.4 billion mobile phones shipped in 2007 (with smartphones as around 10% of that figure), over 800 million phones were on proprietary operating systems. However, there is a global move towards consolidation of operating systems and we expect that to continue.”