There have been quite a few rumors about the fate of Symbian, but now the OS has entered a new stage of its existence - its code is now open source. This move began in June 2008, when Nokia bought Symbian and created the Symbian Foundation to take over the development of the OS. And the Foundation has big plans for the future.
Symbian OS is still the most popular smartphone operating system with 330 million units shipped only last year. The Foundation claims this is the largest transition to open source ever and believes it will help speed up the evolution of the platform. And evolution it needs - with the likes of the iPhone and Google's Android OS, which is also open source, exploding into popularity.
The Symbian Foundation includes Nokia, LG, Motorola, NTT Docomo, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, operators Vodafone and AT&T and chipmaker Texas Instruments. Nokia has been the primary developer in Symbian, but plans to reduce their input to less than 50% by the second half of 2011.
This will leave room for a lot more contributors - now that the Symbian code is available for anyone. In fact the source code should be up for download from the Symbian Foundation website starting 14:00 GMT today. The platform includes the OS itself but also things developed by individual members of the Foundation, including the user interfaces.
The Foundation also hopes this move will lead to a faster development of third party apps now that developers are not hindered by so much proprietary aspects of Symbian. They also hope that the open source nature will improve the security of the OS.
So, in a way Symbian as we know it is going away - this is the end of the line for Symbian S60, which is the last man standing after Sony Ericsson gave up on UIQ. The source code that the Symbian Foundation is releasing seems to be Symbian^3, especially since Symbian^1 is actually S60 5th edition and Symbian^2 was dropped.
We are yet to see the impact this move will create on other open source initiatives like LiMo and if it will help Symbian recover some of the lost ground against iPhone and Android.
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