Odds are, you don’t use Symbian. PhoneNews.com readers typically don’t, because Nokia made it about as intolerable as possible to use Symbian in the United States over the years. The only viable way to do it, was to fork over $599 (and beyond) for a smartphone at-cost… sans any device subsidies. With few exceptions, this made it very difficult to enjoy Symbian, unless money was no object.
While Nokia’s CEO Steven Elop has admitted (as so many prior Nokia executives) that Nokia has failed to even understand the United States handset market, he hasn’t gotten much traction with the Windows Phone lineup. With no current Nokia device being upgradable to Windows Phone 8, due late this year, the handset manufacturer is left selling Symbian devices, like the PureView 808… which carriers won’t even touch.
It’s as grim as RIM.
So, how could Nokia make the situation worse? By terminating relationships with developers who are still supporting their Symbian ecosystem. The cause? Refusing to port their popular Symbian apps to Windows Phone.
That’s at least what developer Jan Ole Suhr, author of the popular Symbian social networking app Gravity is alleging.
Gravity is arguably the most popular Twitter client on Symbian, possibly even surpassing Twitter’s own access methods on Symbian. But, apparently, Nokia is attempting to force Symbian developers with coercion into bringing their Symbian successes to Windows Phone. Either get your apps to Windows, or get out of our ecosystem.
For Nokia, the plan is a nifty groupthink idea that will only put them behind RIM in terms of developer support, and consumer popularity. It almost sounds like a motion being made by fiat from Microsoft, to jump start app development for Windows Phone 7, knowing consumers will need “new” innovations in their dying platform, before Windows Phone 8 arrives to restart things.
We’re not the ones saying Windows Phone 7 is marked for death, Microsoft is the one saying that, when they announced Windows Phone 7 will be completely incompatible with the Windows 8 kernel in Windows Phone 8. Windows Phone 7 apps will have to be re-engineered to work with the Silverlight runtime in Windows Phone 8, and even then, Windows Phone 8 will direct developers to rewrite their apps for the WinRT framework – or risk their Silverlight-era apps falling apart in future Windows Phone generations.
One can start to see why the developers of Gravity would have no interest in porting to Windows Phone 7. But, it remains unclear why Nokia is hellbent on pushing Symbian developers into a platform that has an end-of-life date of around November of this year. The lemmings that follow are essentially being asked to re-engineer their apps for Windows Phone 7, and then re-re-engineer them for Windows Phone 8. They may not have to rewrite the entire app for Windows Phone 8, right away at least, but eventually it will require another rewrite for WinRT.
Considering the abuse Symbian developers have endured, it’s not at all surprising that developers like Jan Ole Suhr are now looking to iOS and Android; the last thing that Microsoft, or Nokia, benefits from.
The one saving grace for Gravity users, is that they will probably still see support. Symbian, unlike Windows Phone and iOS, does not exist in a walled garden. Like Android, apps that are banished such as Gravity, can still be sideloaded. Just one more painful irony that Nokia has built for themselves.