Nokia: Bailing on Symbian Or Fully Committed?

by Rob on August 12th, 2009

symbian_osOh dear. Nokia purchased full ownership of Symbian not too long ago and the company is supposed to be taking the platform open source in 2011… but that is a LONG time away and by that time, Nokia could be much too far behind the likes of the iPhone, Android, WebOS and BlackBerry to put up a valiant fight. It appears that could be cause for panic mode and that is exactly what Nokia is doing according to a rumor published on Techcrunch:

Nokia doesn’t trust its Symbian mobile operating system any more and plans to equip many of its smartphones with the mostly open source Maemo operating system it uses in its Internet tablets, according to undisclosed Nokia sources speaking to the Financial Times in Germany  (FTD).

When the Symbian Foundation was first announced, it was first said that the projects Open Source Code would be made available within 2 years. That would be June 2010 since the Symbian Foundation was formed on June 24th, 2008. But making something Open Source is a long way from launching a product based on the Open Source code and when you factor in delays… who knows when the first phone based on the new platform would be ready. So is Nokia just bridging the gap with Maemo or giving up on Symbian completely?

Om Malik from GigaOM did some investigating and claims that Nokia is fully committed to Symbian. But after reading the direct quotes found in the article, I’m not so convinced:

“We absolutely remain committed to Symbian and S60,” the spokesperson said. “Symbian remains our choice for smartphones and we’ll continue to see enhancements that further the value and experiences on this platform.” Nokia is working on non-smartphone devices such as the N900 tablet. Mameo is the operating system for Nokia’s Internet tablets.

“However, recognizing that the value we bring to the consumer is increasingly represented through software, there is logically not just one software environment that fits all consumer and market needs,” the spokesperson said. “In addition, as we’ve stated before, we also continue to explore opportunities around a new class of devices that we see as the next segment of high performance mobile devices. Maemo is very much part of that thinking but of course there’s nothing new to announce in this regard.”

That “new class” of devices sounds like smartphones to me… does it not? The last interesting bit of info we heard concerning the Open Source version of Symbian OS was back in February when 14 new members joined the ranks. So what the heck is up with the Symbian Foundation now?


On August 10th the Symbian Foundation Blog ran an article titled Symbian Game-Changers that goes really in depth and also talks about the future of the platform. Comments from the article were extremely telling and often pessimistic. The author of the article, David Wood, even responds to the initial TechCrunch story claiming Nokia was ditching Symbian (see comment #24).


I think the bottom line is that Nokia realizes they are in a state of transition and they feel like, hey… we are big enough… why should we put all of our eggs in one basket? So they’re simultaneously testing Maemo, working on the Open Souce Symbian OS and working other angles like Microsoft Office on Smartphones via the web.

Which of these options will win or be successful, if any? That is a different question entirely and the bulk of that answer depends on when Symbian Foundation finally launches their first handset based on the new and unreleased operating system. But based on the Symbian Foundation Release Plan published a few months ago, things aren’t looking good.


  1. 1. Anatolie wrote on August 12, 2009

    Rob, there are so many incorrect facts in your article:
    1)The logo diagram is Symbian’s Limited board structure 10 years back ie not what it was when Nokia purchased the shares that didn’t didn’t belong to them to fully own Symbian Ltd. Is it relevant here?
    2) The Symbian Foundation was not formed June 24th 2008 but formally announced. It formed in Q1 this year.
    3) I believe there are about 115 members now, your facts are pretty outdated
    4) and your basing your article on an FTD article that doesn’t quote the Nokia source that apparently made statements of Nokia abandoning Symbian, hmm.
    Try again Mate.

  2. 2. Petra wrote on August 13, 2009

    Nokia has deployed ISA/S30, S40, Symbian S60 (S80/S90) and Maemo for a number of years. Nothing new to it. Why this sudden panic around “multiple platforms”?

    Symbian has a 51% market share on smartphone OS, and Nokia has a 45% market share in smartphones that ALL (100%) run Symbian

    Relax, people.

    Besides, according to the TechCruch article (I dont read German), FT names their source as “someone close to Nokia”. How reliable is that? Let’s all exercise some reader cricism when the source is not disclosed. Even newspapers like FT, Guardian, Forbes, and Businessweek are known to make mistakes recently.

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