BobbyeM71hxwSymbian 3 Goes Open Source, But Nokia Ties Remain

Now, the Symbian mobile operating system is completely open source. On Thursday, the Symbian Foundation released Symbian 3, the latest version of the platform.

The mobile world continues forging an open strategy with the open-sourcing of Symbian along with the Google’s Android operating system that invites handset makers to further customize and differentiate their products.

According to Haydn Shaughnessy, CEO of Cogenuity and editor of the Symbian Foundation’s blog, the open-sourcing a market-leading product in a dynamic, growing business sector is unprecedented. “Over 330 million Symbian devices have been shipped worldwide, and it is likely that a further 100 million will ship in 2010, with more than 200 million expected to ship annually from 2011 onwards.”

Is the Future Open Source?

Symbian’s transition from proprietary platform to open source is the largest in software history. The Symbian Foundation insists the open-sourcing of the platform lays the foundation for unlimited innovations in mobile development.

According to Lee Williams, executive director of the foundation, the development community is now empowered to shape the future of the mobile industry, and rapid innovation on a global scale will be the result. “When the Symbian Foundation was created, we set the target of completing the open-source release of the platform by mid-2010, and it’s because of the extraordinary commitment and dedication from our staff and our member companies that we’ve reached it well ahead of schedule.”

Any individual or organization can use and modify the code for any purpose under the terms of the Eclipse Public License, whether that be for a mobile device or something else entirely. Symbian’s commitment to openness also includes complete transparency in future plans, including the publication of the platform road map and planned features up to and including 2011. Anyone can now influence the road map and contribute new features.

According to IDC analyst John Delaney, it’s increasingly important for smartphone platforms to offer developers something unique. “The placing into open source of the world’s most widely used smartphone platform emphatically fits that bill. It will be exciting to see where this takes the industry.”

Mobile OS Competition

Despite rolling out ahead of schedule, questions around Symbian’s success in the open-source realm remain. Symbian is still inextricably linked with Nokia, despite the fact that the handset maker set it free and established a foundation around it.

Open-sourcing Symbian is a positive development in light of competition with Android, Gartenberg said, but the resources required to optimize and customize Symbian may deter some handset makers from straying away from Android and Windows Mobile.

“The basic problem that Nokia has with its bulk of ownership of Symbian is the quintessential issue. How do you license something to someone else when you are competing with them?” Gartenberg asked. “Will other handset vendors view even an open-source Symbian as still being primarily a Nokia product and part of the Nokia ecosystem? If so, they may not want to contribute.”

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