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Make money on the Internet without investing in symbia

Guest post: Symbian OS — one of the most successful failures in tech history 10 years This a guest post by Tim Ocock who first worked at Symbian when the consortium was created in the summer of He left in to found Symsource, one of the few dev houses specialising in Symbian still in business today.

Making money with Symbian OS - Mobile Times

Symbian is the biggest smartphone operating system by market share, the oldest smartphone platform still in use, used by almost every major OEM at one time or another. Yet one could be forgiven for thinking Symbian is dead and buried, with news of layoffs at Nokia, management departures at the Symbian Foundation and rough reviews of the latest flagship N8 device.

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How does a platform powering 9 million new devices every month have almost no credibility with developers, analysts and press alike? This is the story of one of the most successful failures in tech history.

To this day Symbian benefits from better battery life and lower hardware requirements than its competitors with similar features.

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Symbian is, arguably, the best phone Operating System there has ever been, and the original standard bearer for the smartphone concept. But they define totally new categories, it just takes a while for everyone else to realise.

Guest post: Symbian OS – one of the most successful failures in tech history

Call it a superphone or an internet phone, the only platform that actually comes close to offering the same experience as iPhone, is Android. Internet phones include better web browsing, better multimedia, and apps of all shapes and sizes and by implication ease for developers to make those appsas well as a better UI to make all that content accessible, even at the expense of traditional phone features.

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They are something different from smartphones. Symbian has never been an OS for internet phones.

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The Symbian definition of a smartphone was a phone with PDA functions. Perhaps where Symbian started slipping in quality was the need, caused by the appearance of iPhone, to compete in the internet phone space too, a space Symbian thought it was in and thought it was winning without realising iPhone was something all together different.

With neither enough time nor talent to make a competitive internet phone, that was enough of a distraction to let even those things that Symbian did well, slip too.

  • How can a public organization make money
  • Well … it is an independent company not related to Nokia — assets are not owned by any single company — but by the members — Symbian is a real Foundation … it is not-for-profit … has approx.

And things do take a long time when it comes to Symbian. Long before it was made open source, the platform had a well earned reputation for being hard to program. Yet the difficulty of writing good Symbian code was hugely beneficial to Symbian as a business in the early days.

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There was simply no incentive to provide an out of the box distribution, not until Android came along, enabling former Symbian licensees such as Motorola and SonyEricsson to put together new phones in mere weeks not years. Both operators and OEMs alike kidded themselves that they wanted a platform they could differentiate on.

In reality, Android and now Windows Phone 7 proved that to be mere lip service, that they really needed someone who knew software to do it for them.

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In theory changes made by the consulting teams were supposed to be folded back into the platform so it would become closer to a finished product over time. This almost never happened. Symbian attempted several times in later years, as telephony hardware became less bespoke, to address the problem, setting up teams specifically to create fully integrated distributions on various reference platforms, but usually done half-heartedly, outside core engineering and without enough resources.

The leadership did not have the will to make it work.

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But the consulting business was if anything just a nice side effect. The real root of the development problem with Symbian was that the APIs and tools roadmap were driven by the needs of kernel engineers and system integrators.

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It was not unusual to hear it spoken by senior staff that there would never be a market for after-market apps and games so why support third party developers? Each died quickly.

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In turn, unlike at Palm, or Android today, there was no product manager representing the needs of third party developers. But even then, these were second class citizens on the platform, incomplete, poorly supported with tools, examples and documentation and most significantly not consistently available across all current devices. Contrast that with Android where Linux drives the core phone technology, everything else, including the application suite, is developed for the Java runtime.

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Qt finally addresses this need but nearly 3 years after acquisition it is still unfinished. For Nokia now, the whole application suite for Symbian and for Meego needs to be migrated to Qt as quickly as possible because this will drive the discovery of new API requirements and improvements to the tools.

Nokia has hundreds of developers working on Ovi Maps, successfully commoditising the SatNav market in a short space of time. But Ovi Maps is done. Those developers should be flat out on building out the whole make money on the Internet without investing in symbia stack in Qt.