Welcome!

Mobile IoT Authors: Liz McMillan, AppDynamics Blog, Pat Romanski, William Schmarzo, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: Symbian

Symbian: Article

Symbian On the Rise

Open platform drives innovation

Symbian, Ltd. (www.symbian.com) was founded in 1998 by Nokia, Ericsson, Motorola, and Psion, using Psion's EPOC OS as a starting point for its new system. David Wood, Symbian's executive vice president, explains that the aim of the founders was to create a standard operating system for advanced mobile phones. "It was getting harder and harder to use the existing proprietary operating systems to quickly and inexpensively come out with new technologies," he says.

By 1998, Wood says, it was already abundantly clear that operating systems of the time were being pushed to their limits. "Any given operating system is designed to cope with a certain amount of complexity," he says. "As more and more features are added in beyond the original voice capabilities, it becomes increasingly difficult to do that smoothly without having to do major surgery on the software system."

Key to the concept behind Symbian was the idea of an open platform, of encouraging developers to build software for Symbian phones in the same way that had driven the sales of PCs. "The idea was that third-party writers would create applications that could be guaranteed on all the phones produced for this operating system - regardless of which manufacturer had created it," Wood says.

As a company created by the major phone manufacturers, Symbian benefits greatly from those manufacturers' insights into what's needed in the phone market. "We've seen in practical terms where the operating system has needed a refinement in real phone projects," Wood says. "So it is uniquely suited for the needs of the phone market."

And, Wood suggests, that's what really makes Symbian unique: the fact that it was built from the start for mobile phones. "We don't have a heritage of desktops," he says. "We're not trying to put everything from a desktop into a phone. The most important application that's in a smartphone is the phone: we're not particularly addressing the 'combination' market of a device that happens to be a computer and a phone."

 

Consumer or Enterprise?

As a result, Symbian has often been perceived purely as a consumer play - but Wood is eager to dispel that image, particularly looking forward. "We think Symbian OS is very well suited to both enterprise and consumer markets," he says. "We have partnerships with many companies that are well positioned to take advantage of the connections into enterprise data, and you'll see more and more of this."

As an example, Wood points to the recent announcement of a commitment by IBM Global Services to act as a system integrator of Nokia's Mobile VPN software for Symbian OS. The Nokia VPN client enables users of Symbian phones to have secure mobile access to enterprise applications, potentially putting such phones in direct competition with devices like the Compaq iPAQ and the RIM BlackBerry.

The point is that Symbian offers far more adaptability than PDAs do. "If an IT department has a choice between buying a custom new Pocket PC for their staff to run some dedicated software on, or simply rolling out an application using Symbian OS on phones that their employees already have, then there's a strong incentive to use the Symbian OS solution there," Wood says.

Yankee Group (www.yankeegroup.com) analyst Sarah Kim adds that with advanced devices it's always difficult to make a clear distinction between consumer and enterprise users. "The consumers who are buying the high-end devices are the very tech-savvy early adopters who are inevitably mobile professional types," she says. "So that line is not particularly easy to draw in market terms."

If professionals have already bought Symbian phones for their own use, and offerings like Nokia's Mobile VPN are available to connect them to enterprise data, it certainly makes sense for companies to consider enabling access through the phones their employees already have. But for now, Kim points out, it's just too early to tell. "It's still very early on in the game," she says. "I know we say that every year, but it's true."

 

An Exacting Design

"From a technical standpoint," Wood says, "Symbian offers a number of key advantages. Prominent among those is power management. That's been critical from the heritage of Psion days, with mobile devices that people carried around with them and expected to last for months," he says. "It's still visible in the software systems that we see now, with long battery life."

In order to ensure that memory safety and power management are optimized, Symbian can place some unique demands on developers. "Some developers, when they use Symbian OS for the first time, are taken aback by the mindset of programming that they realize they need to adopt," Wood says. "There are many more test harnesses to deal with."

That may require more work, but Wood says it pays off in terms of robustness. "We've had occasions where people have ported over software to Symbian OS from other operating systems, and it has fallen afoul of our built-in checks," he says. "They've concluded that their software is leaking memory on every other implementation they have, on Windows and so forth, but it's never been caught before."

Ultimately, Wood says, most developers acquire a great appreciation of the system's design. "We used a lot of features of C++ in an exacting way," he says. "As a result, we have a design which is future-proof, scalable, and extensible - and this is often what drives companies to choose Symbian OS. The architecture has led a lot of support to us."

Finally, Wood says the open architecture is already encouraging a lot of innovation among developers. "We often get pleasantly surprised at what third parties do," he says. "For camera phones, for example, third parties are able to write add-ons that build on the functionality of the camera itself. It's gone much faster than many of us expected: it's really the power of the open platform driving the innovation."

 

Follow the Leader

Peter Bancroft, Symbian's vice president of communications, offers one example of such innovation: the Finnish company Hantro (www.hantro.com), which developed video functionality for Symbian camera phones, was able to license it quickly to Nokia. "The open platform allows developers to gain access to a large market very quickly, even on their first implementation of a particular technology," Bancroft says.

D'Arcy Salzmann, wireless marketing manager for the development tools company Metrowerks (www.metrowerks.com), says that access to manufacturers like Nokia is a key selling point for developers. "Most developers are in this for commercial gain," he says. "So the biggest concern from a developer's perspective is, are people buying the platform for which you want to sell a product?"

With Nokia planning to ship more than 10 million Symbian phones in the next year alone, Salzmann says, it makes a lot of sense for developers to write for the platform. "In 12 months, Symbian will have done what Palm did in five years," he says. "So for a developer deciding which OS to focus their energy on, Symbian represents a really strong growth opportunity."

What's more, Salzmann says, the most exciting work is being done on Symbian phones. "Having merged a camera with the device, Nokia and Sony Ericsson have hit on a really interesting market," he says. "You can spend $200, get a really cool phone that has Web browsing and, by the way, has a camera in it. And they've seen fantastic results: the Nokia 7650 has outsold their expectations."

Jean-Pierre LeBlanc, senior director of RAD development at the development tools company Borland (www.borland.com), points out that the same principles are true for tool vendors. "As a tool vendor, you want to make sure that you're building a tool to support the platform that's going to be ubiquitous in the marketplace, because that's the one from which your developers stand to make the most money," he says.

 

Nokia's Contribution

Another key driver behind Symbian's success is the user interface that Nokia has built for the Symbian OS, called Series 60. Wood is quick to stress that Series 60 is one of many user interface layers for Symbian, but it's by far the most prominent. Other interfaces, such as UIQ Technologies' pen-based UIQ interface, which is being used on the Sony Ericsson P800, allow manufacturers the flexibility to decide what they think users need.

With Series 60 already licensed by such manufacturers as Samsung, Panasonic, and Siemens, The Yankee Group's Kim contends that Nokia's user interface is far more important to Symbian than they'll ever admit. "Their fate is very closely aligned with the fate of Series 60 and Nokia," she says. "It's a very important user interface, and one that can make or break them."

Borland's LeBlanc points out that Series 60 makes it easier for other manufacturers to make use of Symbian without having to develop their own user interface. "By joining the Series 60 program, they've reduced their R&D burden on that side - which allows them to spend more time differentiating on the hardware features of the phone, or on applications to be delivered with the phone," he says.

The more time and money that can be spent on applications, LeBlanc says, the better for everyone involved. "If a platform is to be successful, you have to control the developers and empower them to build applications," he says. "Once you do that, then your platform is empowered, and you can become successful in proliferating that platform in the marketplace."

Metrowerks' Salzmann says Series 60's flexibility should only encourage innovation. "Nokia is using Series 60 as a push to open standards in the mobile world," he says. "They have two Series 60 devices announced, and one shipping, that are all very different. They're proving that even if you buy a user interface package from Nokia, you can create dramatically different devices. That's good for the market."

 

Looking Ahead

It has taken a while for Symbian-based phones to come to market, but Wood says there's now a huge momentum behind the OS. "We've seen products from four licensees, and we're engaging in another 18 projects with another seven," he says. "It's like an iceberg: there's a visible part, but beneath that, there's a tremendous commitment from all major phone players to bring out phones based on Symbian OS."

Ultimately, Borland's LeBlanc says, the backing of the leading phone manufacturers is the key driver behind Symbian's success. "That's when you can be the most successful - when you've got the number one as your customer, and they're giving you guidance on what to build and when to build it," he says. "In terms of operating systems for mobile devices, Symbian is really at the head of the class."

Wood suggests that the first change to expect in the near future is that the Symbian operating system will start to appear in a far wider range of phones. "The initial phones that have come out are visibly high-end, but they're already selling at pretty low prices," he says. "Over time, you'll see Symbian OS used increasingly in mid-range phones."

In a larger sense, Symbian's Bancroft adds, our conception of the phone is going to change. "It's going to broaden beyond its core voice functionality into a huge range of differentiated products that will meet the needs of different market groups," he says. "The Nokia N-Gage gaming console is just one example of how the phone will morph into a range of different markets."

Taking advantage of Symbian's flexibility, Bancroft envisions a vast expansion of the market. "It's much like the car industry: the Model T was the only car on the market until someone else created a new type of car," he says. "I don't suppose Henry Ford would have thought of SUVs and trucks and BMWs and Chevrolets, but that's the direction the market's going to take - and Symbian OS is ideally designed to meet the needs of all those different market segments."

More Stories By Jeff Goldman

Jeff Goldman is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology issues. Brought up in Belgium, Jeff spent the last decade in New York, Chicago, and London; he now lives in Los Angeles.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
The IoT has the potential to create a renaissance of manufacturing in the US and elsewhere. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Florent Solt, CTO and chief architect of Netvibes, discussed how the expected exponential increase in the amount of data that will be processed, transported, stored, and accessed means there will be a huge demand for smart technologies to deliver it. Florent Solt is the CTO and chief architect of Netvibes. Prior to joining Netvibes in 2007, he co-founded Rift Technologi...
Unless your company can spend a lot of money on new technology, re-engineering your environment and hiring a comprehensive cybersecurity team, you will most likely move to the cloud or seek external service partnerships. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Darren Guccione, CEO of Keeper Security, revealed what you need to know when it comes to encryption in the cloud.
We're entering the post-smartphone era, where wearable gadgets from watches and fitness bands to glasses and health aids will power the next technological revolution. With mass adoption of wearable devices comes a new data ecosystem that must be protected. Wearables open new pathways that facilitate the tracking, sharing and storing of consumers’ personal health, location and daily activity data. Consumers have some idea of the data these devices capture, but most don’t realize how revealing and...
What are the successful IoT innovations from emerging markets? What are the unique challenges and opportunities from these markets? How did the constraints in connectivity among others lead to groundbreaking insights? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Carmen Feliciano, a Principal at AMDG, will answer all these questions and share how you can apply IoT best practices and frameworks from the emerging markets to your own business.
Basho Technologies has announced the latest release of Basho Riak TS, version 1.3. Riak TS is an enterprise-grade NoSQL database optimized for Internet of Things (IoT). The open source version enables developers to download the software for free and use it in production as well as make contributions to the code and develop applications around Riak TS. Enhancements to Riak TS make it quick, easy and cost-effective to spin up an instance to test new ideas and build IoT applications. In addition to...
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
Extracting business value from Internet of Things (IoT) data doesn’t happen overnight. There are several requirements that must be satisfied, including IoT device enablement, data analysis, real-time detection of complex events and automated orchestration of actions. Unfortunately, too many companies fall short in achieving their business goals by implementing incomplete solutions or not focusing on tangible use cases. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products...
Ask someone to architect an Internet of Things (IoT) solution and you are guaranteed to see a reference to the cloud. This would lead you to believe that IoT requires the cloud to exist. However, there are many IoT use cases where the cloud is not feasible or desirable. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, will discuss the strategies that exist to extend intelligence directly to IoT devices and sensors, freeing them from the constraints of ...
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, discussed the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to focus...
The best-practices for building IoT applications with Go Code that attendees can use to build their own IoT applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Indraneel Mitra, Senior Solutions Architect & Technology Evangelist at Cognizant, provided valuable information and resources for both novice and experienced developers on how to get started with IoT and Golang in a day. He also provided information on how to use Intel Arduino Kit, Go Robotics API and AWS IoT stack to build an application tha...
With an estimated 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020, several industries will begin to expand their capabilities for retaining end point data at the edge to better utilize the range of data types and sheer volume of M2M data generated by the Internet of Things. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and President of Infobright, discussed the infrastructures businesses will need to implement to handle this explosion of data by providing specific use cases for filterin...
Is your aging software platform suffering from technical debt while the market changes and demands new solutions at a faster clip? It’s a bold move, but you might consider walking away from your core platform and starting fresh. ReadyTalk did exactly that. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, will discuss why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue and over a decade of audio conferencing product development to start an innovati...
So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, provided tips on how to be successful in large scale machine learning...
Early adopters of IoT viewed it mainly as a different term for machine-to-machine connectivity or M2M. This is understandable since a prerequisite for any IoT solution is the ability to collect and aggregate device data, which is most often presented in a dashboard. The problem is that viewing data in a dashboard requires a human to interpret the results and take manual action, which doesn’t scale to the needs of IoT.
What does it look like when you have access to cloud infrastructure and platform under the same roof? Let’s talk about the different layers of Technology as a Service: who cares, what runs where, and how does it all fit together. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Phil Jackson, Lead Technology Evangelist at SoftLayer, an IBM company, spoke about the picture being painted by IBM Cloud and how the tools being crafted can help fill the gaps in your IT infrastructure.
"C2M is our digital transformation and IoT platform. We've had C2M on the market for almost three years now and it has a comprehensive set of functionalities that it brings to the market," explained Mahesh Ramu, Vice President, IoT Strategy and Operations at Plasma, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"delaPlex is a software development company. We do team-based outsourcing development," explained Mark Rivers, COO and Co-founder of delaPlex Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...
Traditional IT, great for stable systems of record, is struggling to cope with newer, agile systems of engagement requirements coming straight from the business. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, William Morrish, General Manager of Product Sales at Interoute, outlined ways of exploiting new architectures to enable both systems and building them to support your existing platforms, with an eye for the future. Technologies such as Docker and the hyper-convergence of computing, networking and sto...
SYS-CON Events announced today that LeaseWeb USA, a cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LeaseWeb is one of the world's largest hosting brands. The company helps customers define, develop and deploy IT infrastructure tailored to their exact business needs, by combining various kinds cloud solutions.