Click here to close now.



Welcome!

Mobile IoT Authors: Scott Allen, Teridion Blog, Sanjay Uppal, Liz McMillan, Anders Wallgren

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
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, Inc., the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Alert Logic, Inc., provides Security-as-a-Service for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructures, delivering deep security insight and continuous protection for customers at a lower cost than traditional security solutions. Ful...
SYS-CON Events announced today that VAI, a leading ERP software provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. VAI (Vormittag Associates, Inc.) is a leading independent mid-market ERP software developer renowned for its flexible solutions and ability to automate critical business functions for the distribution, manufacturing, specialty retail and service sectors. An IBM Premier Business Part...
The cloud promises new levels of agility and cost-savings for Big Data, data warehousing and analytics. But it’s challenging to understand all the options – from IaaS and PaaS to newer services like HaaS (Hadoop as a Service) and BDaaS (Big Data as a Service). In her session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Hannah Smalltree, a director at Cazena, will provide an educational overview of emerging “as-a-service” options for Big Data in the cloud. This is critical background for IT and data profes...
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, will discuss the infrastructures businesses will need to implement to handle this explosion of data by providing specific use cases for filte...
Fortunately, meaningful and tangible business cases for IoT are plentiful in a broad array of industries and vertical markets. These range from simple warranty cost reduction for capital intensive assets, to minimizing downtime for vital business tools, to creating feedback loops improving product design, to improving and enhancing enterprise customer experiences. All of these business cases, which will be briefly explored in this session, hinge on cost effectively extracting relevant data from ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 ad...
Most people haven’t heard the word, “gamification,” even though they probably, and perhaps unwittingly, participate in it every day. Gamification is “the process of adding games or game-like elements to something (as a task) so as to encourage participation.” Further, gamification is about bringing game mechanics – rules, constructs, processes, and methods – into the real world in an effort to engage people. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robert Endo, owner and engagement manager of Intrepid D...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Fusion, a leading provider of cloud services, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Fusion, a leading provider of integrated cloud solutions to small, medium and large businesses, is the industry's single source for the cloud. Fusion's advanced, proprietary cloud service platform enables the integration of leading edge solutions in the cloud, including clou...
As enterprises work to take advantage of Big Data technologies, they frequently become distracted by product-level decisions. In most new Big Data builds this approach is completely counter-productive: it presupposes tools that may not be a fit for development teams, forces IT to take on the burden of evaluating and maintaining unfamiliar technology, and represents a major up-front expense. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Warfield, CTO and Co-Founder of Coho Data, will dis...
With the Apple Watch making its way onto wrists all over the world, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a staple in the workplace. In fact, Forrester reported that 68 percent of technology and business decision-makers characterize wearables as a top priority for 2015. Recognizing their business value early on, FinancialForce.com was the first to bring ERP to wearables, helping streamline communication across front and back office functions. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kevin Roberts...
Eighty percent of a data scientist’s time is spent gathering and cleaning up data, and 80% of all data is unstructured and almost never analyzed. Cognitive computing, in combination with Big Data, is changing the equation by creating data reservoirs and using natural language processing to enable analysis of unstructured data sources. This is impacting every aspect of the analytics profession from how data is mined (and by whom) to how it is delivered. This is not some futuristic vision: it's ha...
WebRTC has had a real tough three or four years, and so have those working with it. Only a few short years ago, the development world were excited about WebRTC and proclaiming how awesome it was. You might have played with the technology a couple of years ago, only to find the extra infrastructure requirements were painful to implement and poorly documented. This probably left a bitter taste in your mouth, especially when things went wrong.
Learn how IoT, cloud, social networks and last but not least, humans, can be integrated into a seamless integration of cooperative organisms both cybernetic and biological. This has been enabled by recent advances in IoT device capabilities, messaging frameworks, presence and collaboration services, where devices can share information and make independent and human assisted decisions based upon social status from other entities. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Heydt, founder of Seamless...
The IoT's basic concept of collecting data from as many sources possible to drive better decision making, create process innovation and realize additional revenue has been in use at large enterprises with deep pockets for decades. So what has changed? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Prasanna Sivaramakrishnan, Solutions Architect at Red Hat, discussed the impact commodity hardware, ubiquitous connectivity, and innovations in open source software are having on the connected universe of people, thi...
WebRTC: together these advances have created a perfect storm of technologies that are disrupting and transforming classic communications models and ecosystems. In his session at WebRTC Summit, Cary Bran, VP of Innovation and New Ventures at Plantronics and PLT Labs, provided an overview of this technological shift, including associated business and consumer communications impacts, and opportunities it may enable, complement or entirely transform.
There are so many tools and techniques for data analytics that even for a data scientist the choices, possible systems, and even the types of data can be daunting. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Harrold, Global CTO for Big Data Solutions for EMC Corporation, showed how to perform a simple, but meaningful analysis of social sentiment data using freely available tools that take only minutes to download and install. Participants received the download information, scripts, and complete end-t...
For manufacturers, the Internet of Things (IoT) represents a jumping-off point for innovation, jobs, and revenue creation. But to adequately seize the opportunity, manufacturers must design devices that are interconnected, can continually sense their environment and process huge amounts of data. As a first step, manufacturers must embrace a new product development ecosystem in order to support these products.
Manufacturing connected IoT versions of traditional products requires more than multiple deep technology skills. It also requires a shift in mindset, to realize that connected, sensor-enabled “things” act more like services than what we usually think of as products. In his session at @ThingsExpo, David Friedman, CEO and co-founder of Ayla Networks, discussed how when sensors start generating detailed real-world data about products and how they’re being used, smart manufacturers can use the dat...
When it comes to IoT in the enterprise, namely the commercial building and hospitality markets, a benefit not getting the attention it deserves is energy efficiency, and IoT’s direct impact on a cleaner, greener environment when installed in smart buildings. Until now clean technology was offered piecemeal and led with point solutions that require significant systems integration to orchestrate and deploy. There didn't exist a 'top down' approach that can manage and monitor the way a Smart Buildi...