Welcome!

Wireless Authors: Kevin Benedict, Elizabeth White, Srinivasan Sundara Rajan, Liz McMillan, Esmeralda Swartz

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
Things are being built upon cloud foundations to transform organizations. This CEO Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Roger Strukhoff, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo conference chair, addressed the big issues involving these technologies and, more important, the results they will achieve. Rodney Rogers, chairman and CEO of Virtustream; Brendan O'Brien, co-founder of Aria Systems, Bart Copeland, president and CEO of ActiveState Software; Jim Cowie, chief scientist at Dyn; Dave Wagstaff, VP and chief architect at BSQUARE Corporation; Seth Proctor, CTO of NuoDB, Inc.; and Andris Gailitis, C...
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Performance is the intersection of power, agility, control, and choice. If you value performance, and more specifically consistent performance, you need to look beyond simple virtualized compute. Many factors need to be considered to create a truly performant environment. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, discussed how to take advantage of a multitude of compute options and platform features to make cloud the cornerstone of your online presence.
SYS-CON Media announced that Splunk, a provider of the leading software platform for real-time Operational Intelligence, has launched an ad campaign on Big Data Journal. Splunk software and cloud services enable organizations to search, monitor, analyze and visualize machine-generated big data coming from websites, applications, servers, networks, sensors and mobile devices. The ads focus on delivering ROI - how improved uptime delivered $6M in annual ROI, improving customer operations by mining large volumes of unstructured data, and how data tracking delivers uptime when it matters most.
In this Women in Technology Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Anne Plese, Senior Consultant, Cloud Product Marketing at Verizon Enterprise, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO at MetraTech; Evelyn de Souza, Data Privacy and Compliance Strategy Leader at Cisco Systems; Seema Jethani, Director of Product Management at Basho Technologies; Victoria Livschitz, CEO of Qubell Inc.; Anne Hungate, Senior Director of Software Quality at DIRECTV, discussed what path they took to find their spot within the technology industry and how do they see opportunities for other women in their area of expertise.
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
SYS-CON Media announced that Cisco, a worldwide leader in IT that helps companies seize the opportunities of tomorrow, has launched a new ad campaign in Cloud Computing Journal. The ad campaign, a webcast titled 'Is Your Data Center Ready for the Application Economy?', focuses on the latest data center networking technologies, including SDN or ACI, and how customers are using SDN and ACI in their organizations to achieve business agility. The Cisco webcast is available on-demand.
"BSQUARE is in the business of selling software solutions for smart connected devices. It's obvious that IoT has moved from being a technology to being a fundamental part of business, and in the last 18 months people have said let's figure out how to do it and let's put some focus on it, " explained Dave Wagstaff, VP & Chief Architect, at BSQUARE Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Building low-cost wearable devices can enhance the quality of our lives. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Sai Yamanoor, Embedded Software Engineer at Altschool, provided an example of putting together a small keychain within a $50 budget that educates the user about the air quality in their surroundings. He also provided examples such as building a wearable device that provides transit or recreational information. He then reviewed the resources available to build wearable devices at home including open source hardware, the raw materials required and the options available to power s...
“The age of the Internet of Things is upon us,” stated Thomas Svensson, senior vice-president and general manager EMEA, ThingWorx, “and working with forward-thinking companies, such as Elisa, enables us to deploy our leading technology so that customers can profit from complete, end-to-end solutions.” ThingWorx, a PTC® (Nasdaq: PTC) business and Internet of Things (IoT) platform provider, announced on Monday that Elisa, Finnish provider of mobile and fixed broadband subscriptions, will deploy ThingWorx® platform technology to enable a new Elisa IoT service in Finland and Estonia.
Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) are increasing at an unprecedented rate. The threat landscape of today is drastically different than just a few years ago. Attacks are much more organized and sophisticated. They are harder to detect and even harder to anticipate. In the foreseeable future it's going to get a whole lot harder. Everything you know today will change. Keeping up with this changing landscape is already a daunting task. Your organization needs to use the latest tools, methods and expertise to guard against those threats. But will that be enough? In the foreseeable future attacks w...
As enterprises move to all-IP networks and cloud-based applications, communications service providers (CSPs) – facing increased competition from over-the-top providers delivering content via the Internet and independently of CSPs – must be able to offer seamless cloud-based communication and collaboration solutions that can scale for small, midsize, and large enterprises, as well as public sector organizations, in order to keep and grow market share. The latest version of Oracle Communications Unified Communications Suite gives CSPs the capability to do just that. In addition, its integration ...
From telemedicine to smart cars, digital homes and industrial monitoring, the explosive growth of IoT has created exciting new business opportunities for real time calls and messaging. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ivelin Ivanov, CEO and Co-Founder of Telestax, shared some of the new revenue sources that IoT created for Restcomm – the open source telephony platform from Telestax. Ivelin Ivanov is a technology entrepreneur who founded Mobicents, an Open Source VoIP Platform, to help create, deploy, and manage applications integrating voice, video and data. He is the co-founder of TeleStax, a...
Today’s enterprise is being driven by disruptive competitive and human capital requirements to provide enterprise application access through not only desktops, but also mobile devices. To retrofit existing programs across all these devices using traditional programming methods is very costly and time consuming – often prohibitively so. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., discussed how you can create applications that run on all mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops using a visual drag-and-drop application – and eForms-buildi...

ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --  IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's platform-as-a-service. The new platform enables developers to build ap...

We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core of our infrastructures. At the same time, we have old approaches made new again like micro-services...
Disruptive macro trends in technology are impacting and dramatically changing the "art of the possible" relative to supply chain management practices through the innovative use of IoT, cloud, machine learning and Big Data to enable connected ecosystems of engagement. Enterprise informatics can now move beyond point solutions that merely monitor the past and implement integrated enterprise fabrics that enable end-to-end supply chain visibility to improve customer service delivery and optimize supplier management. Learn about enterprise architecture strategies for designing connected systems tha...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CodeFutures, a leading supplier of database performance tools, has been named a “Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. CodeFutures is an independent software vendor focused on providing tools that deliver database performance tools that increase productivity during database development and increase database performance and scalability during production.