back to article Nokia plotting Symbian laptops

Nokia has plans to put Symbian onto laptop computers, with the vendor predicting converged devices were likely to appear in as little as five years from now. CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo confirmed the mobile vendor's plans in an interview with the Finnish National Broadcaster last night. "We don't have to look even for five years …

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  1. David Gosnell

    It'll never happen

    It could have been done already with or without Nokia, but while mobile telcos can continue to fleece us for two contracts where one would have done the trick were it not for their greed, business considerations will always get in the way.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Please, please, please...

    ...sort your footnotes out. The footnote should be at the bottom of the page (not the article); clicking on it should take you back to the marker; and hovering over the marker should display the footnote text.

    And while I'm at it, why isn't there a link back to the article from this add comment page!

    Otherwise, good article although with some confusion: "why one would want to do such a thing"? Because the "75-hour battery life remains unbeaten".

  3. Mark Talbot

    Nokia are a confused bunch

    Nokia already started to do this with the Internet Tablet range but have now seemed to have dropped the idea of a arm based Linux and switch to symbian. They seem to just be buying up mobile GUI and OS developers and then changing their mind about what is was they where doing.

  4. Seamaster
    Jobs Halo

    Er, Psion Series 7 anyone?

    Haven't we been there, done that?

    One can only imagine what the Psion range might have evolved into in the netbook era, had management (and shareholders) held their nerve.

  5. John McNeally
    Flame

    Nokia rants?

    Google is doing kinda the same thing... and everyone thinks its wonderful. But when comes to nokia they are confused, it wont happen, its a mistake... And blah blah blah.... Bloody stupid narrow minded folks.

    BTW, what is an iphone os ?

  6. John White
    Go

    Er is this "back to the future"?

    Er....

    Symbian on an ARM based netBook is how I read this.

    sounds suspiciously like EPOC on a (colour) 5MX or Psion netBook.........

    I'd buy it like a shot. Nokia - get on to it! Actually if it was Linux on ARM netBook I'd probably buy it. Years of use of Psion products (original netBook/PC companion idea) says that the Symbian meagre power consumption would be a winner with many of us. Let's face it - the Psion apps were pretty good at what they offered and the OS stability is still the best (I use Win and Linux). As long as the CPU is cranked up to give a reasonably fast user experience and some updated EPOC apps, I think they could have a viable product.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    One word

    Psion.

    Yes I know it's been said but I'm having trouble moving on to the next stage of mourning...

    Mines the one with the 3mx in the pocket.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    The future's bright, the future's... Netbook? Or TomTom?

    As Seamaster says, if Psion management had stayed with their own program, rather than jumping ship to the now-threatened TomTom or staying and following the Windows sheep, the world might look slightly different now...

  9. Roger Heathcote

    Nokia commit suicide.

    I was very keen to get a Symbian based phone in large part because I heard you could put python on it so imagine my dismay when I disovered that although you can Symbian is still an utter hunk of shit.

    I'm onto my second Symbian s60 based handset now(and probably my last). I had put the terribly buggy and slow performance of the first down to it being an early underpowered model but the second (with a much more powerful chip and large memory) is not much better. The UI in both cases has been terrible which is a pity as the hardware is great - robust and featureful.

    I wouldn't put Symbian on my worst enemies netbook(tm), I think they're making a huge mistake here. Nokia should ditch Symbian and go with android or open moko and stick to what they do best, making solid hardware.

  10. goggyturk

    Only one name is suitable

    Nokia netBook (TM). That'll learn them!

  11. Nigel Wright
    Thumb Up

    Rebirth of the Psion?

    I hope so. Although sadly what was once a fabulous o/s has since morphed into a pile of junk if my P990i is anything to go by.

    I would buy a modern day Psion in an instant.

  12. Andrew Moore

    @seamaster

    "One can only imagine what the Psion range might have evolved into in the netbook era, had management (and shareholders) held their nerve."

    errr- you mean if Motorola hadn't bankrupted them (well the commercial division).

  13. Ian Chard
    Stop

    @Roger Heathcote

    I'm glad I'm not the only one that thinks Symbian is cock. I've lost count of the number of times I've had to pull the battery out of my N82 because some application or other has hung and the OS can't terminate it, or it couldn't find a GSM signal at some critical moment so everything went tits up.

  14. Seamaster

    What about Psion's fabulously clever hardware?

    Like the clever saving hinge that also gave such poise and balance to the Series 3, 5 and Revo?

    And how on earth can it be that only Amstrad ever licenced the IP to the fabulous Psion keyboard, as seen on the Series 5 and Revo? I am positively tumescent at the fanstasy of an Apple Netbook with that attached.

    Oh, what could have been...

  15. Warhelmet
    Coat

    Interesting

    But the timing? It's a bit late given that ARM based linux things are supposedly in the pipeline.

    I wonder about RISC OS on an ARM powered laptot. Hmm. That was a nice little operating system in its own way. And, yes, development of RISC OS is still going on.

    Acorn, Psion? Ah, I remember the days...

  16. Neil Hoskins
    Boffin

    Confusion

    There seems to be some confusion in these comments between Symbian and Nokia S60. To clarify, Symbian is basically an excellent OS, and S60 is a disliked and muddled mobile phone UI with very poor PIM apps. Nokia's muddle and confusion is nicely illustrated by the fact that there are now three (or is if four?) different S60 email clients.

    Now if somebody could port the Netbook/Series7/5mx UI and apps to the current version of Symbian using uptodate hardware, you'd have an absolute winner.

  17. Ian Michael Gumby
    Coat

    It actually makes some sense...

    I have a Nokia E90. Why? Because of the size of the QWERTY keypad. I bought it because at the time the larger Blackberry RIM didn't have GPS yet and the newer models shrunk the keyboard.

    If you send a lot of texts and email, the keyboard really is important.

    I would have bought one of the 810 tablets except that its not a phone.

    Yes the current machines are underpowered for some of the stuff that you want to do. However, if you look at the convergence of phone/pda in to a 'net book', you can keep it in your bag and just have a blue tooth headset for phone. If designed correctly, you should be able to swap in/out your communications (wi-fi, wi-max, etc ...) so whatever format wins the 4G race, you'll do ok.

    From a market perspective, you can build a high end net book on Symbian. Its the lack of apps that can kill you.

    Android has the edge in that they're using a Linux kernel that has already a built in market share and mindset of developers. That doesn't mean that Nokia can't make up ground or develop cross windows/symbian and linux/symbian development tools and software test platforms.

    Oh and BTW, Nokia owns Navteq so TomTom is out of luck with their tele Atlas. Google on the other hand is getting in to the mapping business so both Tom Tom and Nokia should be scared.

  18. tardigrade

    As little as five years. Gosh.

    That kind of demonstrates the difference in attitude that differentiates Nokia and Symbian from Psion and what EPOC was in terms of hardware and software.

    The Psion of old would have been first to market with a device that is 5 years ahead of the competition, not taking 5 years to play catch up!

    The market will have changed beyond recognition in that time. My guess is that by the time Nokia and Symbian have finished sitting on their hands, Android will have everything sown up nicely.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'll pass thanks

    What Symbian has become is so different from the kind of OS Psion created, largely thanks to Nokia, so whilst the idea of a Symbian laptop or netBook™ is an attracive one to the old Psion users here, the reality will be that the device is designed with the Nokia mentality, without all the verve and sparkle that was inheret to Psion products.

    It's too easy to think of this as a modern day netBook™ running an updated EPOC. But the long Register article about Psion from a couple of years ago explains how much thought and attention to detail Psion put into even the smallest of decisions but no matter how much they explained their logic and design principles to the Nokia people, they weren't interested. They just scrapped it all and implemented their own caveman & club methods.

    So, in the same way that the Nokia 9200 wasn't an adequate replacement for a 5MX, I doubt whether any Nokia laptop is going to really be an adequate replacement for the Psion netBook™ I don't think even Psion can make a proper Psion anymore. Too many people have gone, it's been too many years and the only person who'd really be motivated to set up new UK offices is David Potter, and even he's probably too old to care now.

    Non-Psion fans will either not care about a Symbian netBook™ because they see no reason to choose it over Linux or Windows devices, or they'll be a tad too sans-nouse to understand the difference between the operating system and a mobile phone user interface that a manufacture has plonked down on top of it (such as Series 60 or UIQ)

    And to be a pedant, Oregon Scientific also licenced Psion's keyboard technology along with EPOC when it created the Osaris. But it is strange how it wasn't used much more widely, even beyond PDAs. Perhaps Psion knew they had something fantastic and thought it was better to restrict its use for EPOC devices.

  20. Bod

    Benefits for mobiles?

    Quality of Symbian and "keeping up with the Joneses" aside, it's an interesting idea if only because potentially it can bring richer apps developed for such a netbook to the pocket mobile, especially newer mobiles that may have similar grunt to a netbook to run those apps.

    I think they'll have a harder time getting mobile symbian apps to run well on a larger desktop space of a netbook.

    From a power point of view, if they can get a netbook with battery life well beyond 24 hours (or even half that), then that would be very attractive, especially if it can play films.

  21. Ian Chard
    Happy

    @Neil Hoskins

    > Symbian is basically an excellent OS, and S60 is a disliked and muddled mobile phone UI [...]

    I stand corrected; I have always conflated the two. Nokia don't exactly go out of their way to differentiate between them, especially to users of their phones!

  22. Tim Schomer

    I wonder...

    If they'll ask PSION for any assistance on this one...

  23. Simon Rockman

    A small, Symbian based laptop

    Will they be allowed to call it a netbook :-)

  24. Twm Davies

    Qt

    As for the question of UI. Nokia now own Qt which sort of already working on S60 devices (that includes PC style menus, buttons and other standard controls).

    I think you have to approach these sort of ideas with an open mind. e.g What if the Symbian foundation adopts a Linux Kernel and Symbian becomes a Nokia sponsored Linux distro?

    What if the from the group up asynchronous nature of Symbian makes it a better choice than linux for low power and SMP hardware - to the point where it makes sense to deploy it in a netbook type device which provides 3G web browsing a basic productivity suite.

    I don't think the intention is to run Symbian on any old laptop and support a myriad of generic hardware peripherals. I think it's more a recognisation that the cheap netbook market is a growing one.

  25. James

    @Ian Chard

    Symbian was never really allowed advertise it's existence apart from a line in an About box in the phone software. This actually really frustrated some people there as customers keep thinking S60 IS Symbian OS. It's not.

    @Bit Fiddler

    UIQ is dead and has been incorporated into S60.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The old EPOC UI is alive and well and living in Southwark

    Believe it or not, internally many of the Symbian developers still use the old EPOC UI, tarted up a bit and with support for new Symbian OS features like Bluetooth and such. It's used during bringup and in OS and system infractructure testing, since the Symbian OS is supposed to be UI agnostic.

    EPOC was initially released to non-Psion vendors at version 4, with this Eikon shell that we all fondly remember.

    During the SymbianOS 6 timeframe, two UIs were designed called Quartz and Crystal. Quartz evolved into UIQ (that's what the name means) and Crystal turned into Series 80. Since Symbian itself had to stay agnostic, the old Eikon UI was kept around for debugging and testing purposes.

    Then Symbian prototyped a bunch more UI layers, Sapphire, Ruby and Emerald, which nobody seemed to want, but Nokia took Sapphire and turned it into Series 60 (mostly by mangling it til it looked like Series 40 enough for their users to use without having to think too much about it.)

    And then, in the SymbianOS 7 timeframe, Nokia made another UI- Series 90- and did almost nothing with it, and then the Japanese cellphone companies made yet another one- FOMA.

    So, yeah. There are a lot of user interface layers on SymbianOS. It's probably the only user-facing OS that really has more than two actively used complete UI layers. Of course, all the infrastructure (stuff like messaging, the POSIX layer, hardware drivers, filesystems, signalling and network stacks, and even higher level stuff like crypto/cert management, image manipulation and email handling) is shared between all of these user interface systems.

    At least 90% of the buggy, slow code is in the vendor-supplied code. SymbianOS itself is fast and efficient- booting to the text shell takes under ten seconds, even on a good old ARM Integrator. Booting to TechShell takes a little longer but it's still considerably faster than even the relatively snappy N95's Series 60 boot.

    Disclosure: I was one of the Symbian EKA2 kernel coders. I like SymbianOS a lot, even though these days I work on firmware for machines that run Linux .

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Was Symbian mentioned?

    Has Nokia actually mentioned Symbian as the OS for the netbook/laptop they are working on? They could be using Maemo, right? Or - Heaven forbid - even Windows.

  28. nobby

    mmm psion 5

    sniff. must get the old boy out of its drawer and see if i can find the power supply.

    it was *so* good...

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    @AC

    "EPOC was initially released to non-Psion vendors at version 4, with this Eikon shell that we all fondly remember."

    So what about the Geofox One? ;-) And if you're not including Eikon, the Philips Accent/Synergy that never quite made it into production was also pre-ER4.

    "Then Symbian prototyped a bunch more UI layers, Sapphire, Ruby and Emerald"

    Actually those predate the 'final' offering of Quartz, Crystal and Pearl. There were many changes to their UI plans between the original five DFRDs and the three that finally appeared, though even then none of them ever appeared in real products as they were. They were all changed, renamed or absorbed into other user interface projects. One could almost mistake them for making it up as they went along. They even had to write Eikon three times in very different ways before the version that finally appeared on the Psion 5 was created, and things don't get much earlier than that!

    "Nokia took Sapphire and turned it into Series 60"

    Pearl was what should have been Series 60. Sapphire was for larger screen devices not unlike the Psion 5 or Revo. It's possible that Sapphire could have become the eventual replacement for Eikon as Psion started producing smartphones. But as so much of it was talk and so little made it into devices, we'll never know. By the time Thor was taking shape everything had changed so much that not only did they stick with Eikon but they (sadly) outsourced all the software work on customising ER6 and adding extra features because they couldn't even do that on their own anymore.

    Emerald would have been for smaller smartphones like sucessors to the Ericsson R380 (which used Uikon itself)

  30. Richard Stephens

    I wish, I really wish ...

    Only the other day I got my netBook out of mothballs and fired her up - the real Psion original, who now sits in my cellar. I'm not even sure if there is life in the battery left. It still compares favourably with the modern batch of netbooks - and the instant on feature and super-long battery were just great.

    Why on earth Psion got out of this market I don't know - EPOC 5 needs little adjustment, the addition of comms facilities (which modern Symbian should be able to do).

    All I can say to Nokia is: if you do resurrect EPOC on the netBook, please, please don't bog it up. Just leave perfection as it was.

    On a point of correction: I don't think the Psion netBook ever had 75 hours, I think 8-9 hours was about it, the Psion 5mx might have managed 75!

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stupid idea

    Who would want laptop which can not be controlled by user, where the manufacturer decide which application can be installed and which can not, and where user can not even see his own hard drive ? Symbian signed warrant all this and more. It's a DRM hell for user. Also developers will have to pay yearly for Publisher ID certificate and for each *binary* version , passing torturous ceremony of the signing by "test house". Otherwise app would have limited functionality an a lot of warning during installation. Symbian would be heaven for rootkits - user can not see all of his disk, antivirus software can not be updated fast enough (each new version would have to pass tests by test house and signing) and for hackers symbain is not so hard to crack - all existing versions already hacked.

  32. Lars Silver badge
    Linux

    Old stuff bye now, I suppose

    but I have found nothing about Symbia but lots about Linux in the background to this story.

    So please explain Bill Ray.

    I could suspect some Symbian if the device was a phone too.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    75 hours

    To the people questioning the 75 hour battery life, the article is referring to Psion's MC laptops from the 80s that used the EPOC GUI on SiBO. They did indeed manage such phenomenal batterylife, though I seem to recall some Psion fans of the day complaining because their Organisers lasted for six months on one PP9...

    They then complained about the 80 hours of the Series 3 and were up in arms over the choice of RAM largely being responsible for a drop to 40 hours for the Series 5 (though in practice, the best you'd get on a pair of Duracells would be 35), and that was with EPOC's power efficiency so meticulous that the keyboard could go to sleep between the keypresses of slow typers!

    And as for the fellow who thinks it a stupid idea, you appear to be yet another one who doesn't understand the difference between the OS and its implementation through a specific GUI on a specific class of device. The Psion netBook and Series 5 of the 1990s are you cues for what to expect from any Symbian laptop.

    I wonder how differently things would have turned out if Nokia had used SIBO in the Nokia 9000 after all?

  34. John
    Go

    Can't wait

    All the parts for this already exist - Nokia just needs to design some fancy new hardware for it to sit on.

    Personally I think the EIKON interface running on Symbian OS9.1 (or newer) would be fantastic. The netBook was the best device I ever owned, only being let down by the fact they stopped developing it so support for emerging technologies did not exist. I sold mine approx 3 years ago. Everyone who saw it wanted one.

    Long battery life, Instant on/off just by opening/closing the lid, keyboard, touchscreen, flash storage = bring it on.

    My only concern is that Nokia aren't the company to do this - commercial pressure to release would far outweigh the sort of quality control that we were used to from Psion.

    John

  35. Bod

    @AC

    "Who would want laptop which can not be controlled by user, where the manufacturer decide which application can be installed and which can not, and where user can not even see his own hard drive ?"

    Hmm, you've just described an iPhone there ;-)

    However that's not a fair comparison because unlike the iPhone, S60 devices do expose a file system (abstracted from the concept of hard discs and flash memory), it's just that areas that are dangerous for users to mess with are hidden (unlike on Windows), and generally there's no simple obvious file manager included on S60 devices, but then on a phone it's not really that necessary. Many apps for S60 will let you browse the public file system however, and not just those dedicated to that task (e.g. office apps etc).

    What gets installed and what doesn't is just down to signing your apps. With S60 you aren't restricted by the manufacturer in doing so and essentially you can install whatever you like. Again, unlike Apple where apps are strictly controlled and only authorised apps can be installed officially.

    That operators lock down the phones further is another matter, but no fault of Nokia, S60 or Symbian.

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