back to article New Symbian launches mobile free-for-all

The Symbian Foundation is gagging to gain acceptance as a free and neutral mobile alternative to Windows, Linux and Apple. Symbian's John Forsyth - he's vice president of strategy - said the rapidly forming group needs a "clean-room culture" with its own offices, and populated by technical experts from handset- and service- …


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  1. Richard Joseph

    Trying to 'trip up' an Android

    Nokia will probably be looking to be the known as the defintive source of Symbian devices within an expanded/strengthened Symbian market place, as third party take [hopefully] up grows.

    I'd suggest that although Nokia would like to fight off established players such as MS, I'm guessing that the more worrying competitor might be Google's Android, due to Google becoming one of the worlds most recognisable (and rising) Brands.

  2. Andy Watt

    Too little, too late, too old.

    There are some good looking symbian offerings around, but it's a pig to work in - over time, the sheer clunkiness of the API will mean it will be overtaken by newer platforms with a better inner and outer face. Series 60 is horrible, UIQ is doomed (now that Symbian IS nokia)... If Android gets off the ground and they don't permanently piss off the dev community, Android could do well - shiny new API (hopefully not too mangled by implementation-specific stuff under their insane ideas)

    But ultimately, in the arena Symbian wants to inhabit, the Jesus phone is going to take over, especially now Steve-o has succumbed to the Subsidised Handset Pricing Plan mantra. Shiny new API (after a fashion), some quality control on apps via the app store, and that big plus, a user-centric approach to the design.

    I'd strongly advise anyone to get into dev for the iPhone. I'm stopping working on Symbian as I've got very tired of the ancient idiosyncratic bits.

  3. Jolyon Ralph

    Slight drawback with this plan

    in that Symbian is shit.

    Jolyon (speaking with much experience of this)

  4. Sleepy Fox
    Jobs Horns

    The Emporer's new handset

    Having come from Symbian to a startup to spend almost a year developing one of the first publicly available iTunes App Store apps, I can say from experience that the grass is always greener on the other side.

    Apple's developer support on the iPhone has been non-existent, and the constant beta-SDK releases which broke basic framework functionality time after time rapidly wore thin. The release and quality control on the iPhone OS is non-existent, and the issues of getting a product to market have been an order of magnitude worse than Symbian. Yes, we also make a S60-series application, so I know what I'm talking about.

    Whilst it's true that one would expect this situation to improve as time goes on, I have to say that right now, though I hate to say it, warts and all, Symbian is a better platform to develop on.

  5. Arnold Lieberman


    So is this new going to mean all + dog could get the appropriate SDK and rebuild symbian for existing (buggy) handsets? Thought not.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    what the heck...

    "as companies - especially in Japan - were unwilling to rely on a single source for their mobile operating system needs."

    Hahaha, what a gross misinterpretation of the Japanese market. Just about every major Japanese company buys all their handsets from a single vendor and signs them up with a single provider. In many cases that phone vendor is NEC and the service provider is DoCoMo. Both icons of Japanese corporatism.

    Nokia has always struggled in the Japanese market because they have failed to build a Japanese image. Ericsson have managed to do that by forming a JV with Sony, headquartered in Tokyo, letting Sony call the shots. As a result, Sony-Ericsson is doing much better in the Japanese market than Nokia, even though on an international level, Sony-Ericsson are far behind Nokia. It all comes down to "going Japanese". Many Japanese won't even recognise Nokia as a brand, they will recognise Sony-Ericcson though.

    Symbian or not, open sourced or not, if Nokia wants to improve their standing in the Japanese market, their Japanese operation will have to learn to become "more Japanese", if they continue to fail to do that, they will continue to be a marginalised wannabe in the Japanese market.

  7. Mage Silver badge

    So Symbian is rubbish

    But the other platforms are worse.

    OS X : evil poorly documented Mix of BSD UNIX and Apple Goo

    Linux: Documentation is optional. You have the source. APIs are not pretty or consistent. Which C libraries / APIs depreciated.

    Win CE/Mobile. It only can look like Windows. Well documented, but rubbish compared to Embedded NT. You need your own UI as the Windows look and Feel needs a stylus and is designed for a much bigger screen than ANY phone has. The successful WinMo products have their own GUI. It is not really related to Desktop Windows at all. Designed for Sega DreamCast?

  8. Mage Silver badge

    I forgot

    Android is Linux running proprietary version of Java. You ever tried using the mechanisms to access system APIs outside the Java sandbox?

    Buy an Archos 605 WiFi and write some apps for it. That's what Android is like. Closed. Proprietary and limited to Java. (The Archos will run Flash 9, Opera Widgets and Java on a web page, but you can't install anything else on it, though it's Linux based. In a sense that's the aim of Android, not native Linux apps.).

  9. Gabor Torok

    Who said that Symbian development = Symbian/C++

    I often wonder why people associate a platform, a mobile OS with a single programming opportunity. Who said that you can develop for a Symbian OS-based phone only in Symbian/C++? What about Java, Flash (Lite), Python, C, Widgets, .NET, SilverLight, etc.? Of course, each has its own strengths and weaknesses, the point is to offer the freedom of choice. The possibility of _porting_ your solution instead of writing it from scratch. Mixing technologies, like Widget with Flash Lite, Python with Symbian extensions, etc.

    Finally, I also wonder how does mobile OS flame war come to the fact that Symbian wants other players in Symbian Foundation to have equal votes?

  10. Jasmine Strong

    Symbian's really not that bad

    Disclosure: I used to work for Symbian, in the kernel group

    It seems unlikely that most of you naysayers have actually seen inside the belly of the beast. The core of the thing's actually really good. It does some stuff that other OSes can't even dream about, like running hard realtime with untrusted user apps and that sort of thing, and it has pretty exceptional hardware support.

    What cripples Symbian is three-fold: poor management, terrible processes, and a choice of weird UI layers. No doubt half the senior staff are going to leave over this open-source business, so that ought to clear up at least the first problem.

    What I'd like to see is a decent UI/application layer ported onto Symbian's unquestionably good underpinnings. S60 and UIQ are the problem with SymbianOS, not the actual OS itself. Symbian's increasing moves towards POSIX compliance may make this more likely to happen...

  11. Andy
    Paris Hilton


    yea, it can do things other 'OSes' can only dream about and its users can only 'dream' about owning the damn phone this crap is installed on.... if you own a Symbian OS phone and want to install apps that are rightly signed by freeware devs for copyright reasons - but kept free? .. you can't unless you or the dev pays some shitty tax to Symbian for a certificate. All this is twisted under the guise of 'protecting the phone user' .. bullshit.

    If it were that simple, Symbian would operate a sign off process where the owner of the phone agrees to waive any warranty or help if they install stuff that hoses the phone ... I for one do not need to be told that it's possibly too dangerous to allow me to do what I want, unless I pay £250 - whereby it magically becomes ok to do so.

    Same old nannying crap, the OS is dead, buy something else that doesn't stamp on freedom of choice and allows you to own the bloody phone in the first place.

    Not everyone is as stupid with technology as the Symbian management, where you have techno-retards advising normal techno-savvy people.

    So sod off Symbian, you can only dream of being as free and useful as other 'OSes' because your product line model is shite.

    Paris because she is about as useful as a Symbian powered phone.

  12. Shaun Blagdon

    Phone Settings

    Andy, check Settings, Application Manager, Software installation, change from Signed Only to All.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    @ Shaun Blagdon

    "check Settings, Application Manager, Software installation, change from Signed Only to All."

    Yeah, I tried that, too, didn't work though.

    I could not do any address/phone number syncing with my laptop because the conduit applet needed to do so could not be installed on my Symbian based Nokia. I asked several Symbian developers for help and all they came up with was the procedure you described, but the phone said "operation not authorised".

    In other words, Symbian OS makes it easy for a network operator to totally lock down the phones so that useful or even essential features are disabled and the phone user has absolutely no way to do anything about it, other than voting with their wallet and buy something else, which is what I did.

    I don't care who is to blame, all I care is that address and phone number syncing was simply impossible and the result is that I bought a different phone and that I will not buy a Symbian phone again in the future.

  14. Playjam

    @Anonymous Coward

    Often the problem is sitting in front of the device not the device itself.

    What you describe is not operating system specific. Obviously the error is yours, as you did not check if the network operator would allow you to use the device as it was meant to be used by it's creators.

    I wish consumers would wake up and put the blame where it belongs - the network operators. Device fragmentation and network operators are the main evil for independent mobile software developers.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Playjam

    I did check with the network operator before getting the phone and signing the 2 year contract. They assured me (verbally) that address syncing with my laptop was available. They looked this up in the tech specs but they did not check whether this feature was disabled as a result of their own policies. After I discovered that I couldn't do any syncing and raised a ticket with the operator's tech support, they eventually told me "sorry, not supported".

    When I tried to escalate the issue in order to find somebody who might be able to lift this ban on syncing, it went in circles and I got nowhere. They didn't even grant me so much courtesy as to let me out of the 2 year contract I signed. I would have needed to hire a lawyer and who knows how much money that would have cost me.

    To add insult to injury, the synchronisation applet to be installed on the Nokia was actually developed jointly by Nokia and the manufacturer of my laptop. The network operator simply didn't know what they were disabling but they also didn't have the knowledge to figure out how to fix this. They were given a big hammer with that Symbian OS and they used that hammer to smash everything that looked to them like a nail.

    I blame it on the Symbian OS because if the operators are equipped with fascist tools, they will use them against their customers and the customer will lose out. If you can't manipulate the phone's OS to reclaim your fair use rights, then the OS is a user-hostile piece of crap, and I won't have any of it, thank you very much.

    When I asked my Symbian developer friends for help, I had hoped they would be able to install something on the damn thing with their developer tools but they said that this involves some costly and bureaucratic authorisation process with Symbian. WTF.

    We all agree that Apple is a real control-freak company, but even their phone allows the installation of applets without any authorisation from either Apple or the network. And if you can't find the app you're looking for in their online store, then you still have the last resort of asking a developer friend who has the SDK to write up some utility and install it on your iPhone, no authorisation needed, neither from Apple nor from the network. Same with Windows Mobile, you can install utilities without permission from either Microsoft or the network.

    Yet with Symbian, you can't do that if the network operator doesn't want you to. That's one hell of a fascist big brother setup. The operators shouldn't be given that much power, period. I vote against this with my wallet.

  16. Andy
    Paris Hilton


    Yea, that's for apps that aren't signed already - try using that method on say .. rotateme2 by Samir. Samir has protected his copyright by signing it - and this stops you from installing the application due to the way Symbian operate their nanny signing system. It requires I get a dev certificate to do it - for which you pay cash to the craphole company trying to fleece the customers who have bought phones and own them outright... I still don't need their crappy OS restrictions but I have to live with it until I can change - that is soon thankfully :)

    Paris because - well, it's Paris! - she probably has shares in Symbian.

  17. Aspect
    Dead Vulture

    Oh come on people

    You mean to say that you can't navigate your way around the Symbian Open Signed site? Yes, the site where you can upload the freeware app you want to install and receive, via email, a signed version for your device?


    It doesn't even require a sign up.

    Symbian are between a rock and a hard place on this. Informed technical users want to be able to install whatever they like on the device they own; network operators want to make sure that they're a) not inundated with support calls from non-technical users saying "I installed X and my phone doesn't work" and, b) badly behaving apps don't hose the expensive network they've spent years investing in and prevent people from making calls (don't laugh - they're actually worried about this).

    So, Symbian, and S60 (+others) have a compromise. There's a signing process which prevents Joe User installing on their phone without understanding the implications, and a (now) relatively lightweight mechanism for the savvy to get applications onto their devices.

    Symbian doesn't allow the net-ops to protect themselves == Symbian doesn't get taken up by handset manufacturers who have this requirement placed upon them by net-ops == 1) Symbian makes no money with the obvious consequences, and 2) you lose the power of this actually very open OS.

    So, when criticising anything (not just Symbian in this context) make sure you have all the facts, understand the lie of the land and the various players/concerns involved, and build your case on that. This is a better approach and will get you a more considerate hearing than "omg sybian sux, i cant install this cracked app my friend sent me".

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