Amid transition, Symbian starts paid partner program

Symbian has launched a paid developer program while it moves toward open-source availability of its OS.

Symbian launched a partner program for software developers working with its mobile OS, taking an interim step to attract more developers while the OS moves toward open-source availability.

Joining the Symbian Partner Network (SPN) gives developers access to Symbian source code before all of it becomes open source, a period that may last a year or more, according to David Wood, executive vice president for research at Symbian. It also will include access to a new Web portal where developers can download code for future versions of the OS and communicate with their colleagues on forums and wikis.

Membership will cost US$1,500 per year, compared with US$5,000 per year for the Platinum Partner Program, which it will replace. As with the Platinum program, membership also includes access to live events, opportunities to pitch applications to carriers and handset makers, and some marketing assistance. In addition to application creators, SPN is intended for middleware developers, consultants and trainers. Companies can join now, and some already have, Wood said.

Late last month, Nokia announced it would buy out the remainder of Symbian and form the Symbian Foundation, which would eventually make the OS available as open source. But that won't happen overnight, Wood explained. All the code has to be reviewed for potential intellectual property and security issues, and because of arrangements with third parties, some of the code may not be opened for some time, he said. There are about 30 million lines of code in the OS to be dealt with, according to Wood. And Nokia's buyout still needs regulatory approval.

"We're living in sort of a dual world," Wood said. But even after the OS becomes available as open source through the Symbian Foundation, SPN membership will probably continue to have value because of its community and networking opportunities, he added.

Competition for the hearts and minds of mobile developers has heated up in recent months with the emergence of Google's Android platform and the LiMo Linux-based platform, both of which are open source, as well as Apple's iPhone SDK. Symbian is the dominant smartphone platform in Europe and shipped on 18.5 million phones in the first quarter of this year. But analysts say its backers are moving toward open source to keep the platform competitive and to gain market share in North America.

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