The Symbian platform today announced broad and sweeping changes to the entire platform. These changes are aimed at paving the way for Symbian to become a better competitor for the Android platform.
First and foremost, Symbian will unify the UIQ and S60 platforms. With the advent of S60 touch, this is a logical progression for the platform, as touch screen functionality was what separated the two classes of devices. It also means that devices like the Motorola Z8 and Z10, which run a modified version of Symbian, will be no more. From now on, all devices that run Symbian will be software-compatible with one-another; no porting required.
Nokia, the primary holder of Symbian, will acquire all shares from other holders. Like Android, owned by Google, device partners will maintain a stake of the platform, which will be owned by Nokia. Nokia will then be responsible for unifying Symbian platforms, and then returning that code to device partners. Nokia has established the Symbian Foundation, an operation similar to Google’s Android alliance.
Sony Ericsson and Motorola, the two other holders of Symbian, are both backing the move, and have agreed to exchange their contributions to Symbian, in exchange for long-term access to the platform.
Some things are not completely clear however. Android is planning launches on GSM, UMTS, CDMA, and WiMAX. Symbian, in the United States, remains off-limits to the CDMA platform, and WiMAX is not even spoken for.
Also not clear, is how this move will affect the stakeholders. Nokia has yet to define if their device future will be with Linux (supported by the acqusition of Trolltech, and commitments to the Maemo platform), or to the Symbian platform (supported by the market dominance of Symbian, and announcements such as today’s).
Sony Ericsson has struggled to gain device support with UIQ. While the company continues to develop UIQ devices, such as the P1 Paris, the company has turned to developing for Windows Mobile, due largely to sluggish sales of the platform. Motorola, facing the possible selloff of the entire company, will gain a cash infusion from its sale of Symbian, which it invested heavily in before its announced spinoff of its Mobile Devices unit.
Rumors have started early this week that Motorola is already working on an upcoming Symbian device, based on this new platform.
Finally, Symbian has also indicated that they will make the platform open source, within the next couple of years.