BobbyeM71hxwSymbian OS now fully open source

On Thursday, the Symbian Foundation will move forward with offering up the full Symbian smartphone platform to open source.

With the applications, middleware and the Kernel itself, the Symbian 3 platform will be offered under terms of the Eclipse Public License and other open source licenses. According to Larry Berkin, head of global alliances for the foundation, “you can download it, you can modify it”. Previously, the kernel was made available via open source.

Berkin said they’re open-sourcing 108 packages that will be available at the source code level. Handset manufacturers can modify the code and build differentiated handsets, he added.

According to Berkin, the foundation members accelerated the process originally due to be fully open-sourced by June. Code, more than 40 million lines of it, will be available at Symbian’s Website at 6 a.m. Pacific Time.

“End-users will see, ideally, differentiated devices, converged devices that are based on Symbian that range from smartphones [to converged devices],” such as cameras or a phone that is a gaming device, he said.

According to Berkin, the open-sourcing could possibly result in incompatible, forked versions of the platform, and manufacturers need to be responsible for their work with Symbian. The market can be self-correcting in situations such as this, he said.

There are 330 million Symbian-based devices in use, said Berkin. Five manufacturers currently build Symbian devices: Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Fujitsu, and Sharp.

Symbian technology had been driven by Symbian Limited, the majority of which was owned by Nokia, which then spun it out as an open source project.

Putting Symbian into open source will boost the platform in the marketplace, said analyst William Stofega, program manager for mobile device technology and trends at IDC. Development Kits are also available to download for building Symbian applications and mobile devices. These include the Symbian Developer Kit and the Product Development Kit.

In November 2009, Nokia put the Linux-based Maemo OS on its high-end N900 “mobile computer,” which features a phone and capabilities like email, a Web browser, and video. But the company remains a backer of Symbian, according to Nokia representatives.

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