Nokia CEO underscores support for Symbian

Symbian's user interface will be a non-issue this time next year, according to Nokia

Symbian's future on Nokia's smartphones has been questioned lately, but Nokia's support for the OS remains unchanged for the foreseeable future, CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo said during a keynote at the company's Capital Markets Day on Wednesday.

Kallasvuo directly addressed recent blog reports that Nokia is replacing Symbian with the Linux-based Maemo OS on its high-end handsets, leading to speculation about what that means for Symbian's future.

Using Symbian makes good business sense for Nokia, and allows the company to develop cheap smartphones that will democratize the form factor, said Kallasvuo.

Today, the biggest drawback with Symbian is its user interface, which hasn't kept up with touch-based user interfaces on devices like the iPhone and phones based on Google's Android OS.

In the middle of next year, a new version of Symbian will make a first step toward a better user interface, and this time next year the user experience on Symbian will be a non-issue, according to Kallasvuo.

Upcoming versions of Symbian will reduce clutter, decrease the number of clicks to get to features like music and e-mail and offer a much faster user interface, promised Kai Öistämö, executive vice president of devices at Nokia.

The smartphones trend isn't just happening in the developed world. Devices like the Nokia 5230, which costs €149 (US$225) before operator subsidies and taxes, will expand the reach of smartphones to new markets. The cost of smartphones will continue to drop, Nokia said, without elaborating on what future devices will cost.

Maemo will only be used on its most expensive devices, including the recently launched N900, according to Nokia. Nokia executives didn't say much at the event about upcoming Maemo-based devices. The first product based on Maemo 6, the next version of the OS, will arrive in the second half of 2010, according to Alberto Torres, executive vice president of solutions at Nokia.

Just like upcoming versions of Symbian, Maemo 6 will offer a better user interface and improved support for multitasking, a feature that the iPhone still lacks and Nokia takes every chance to underscore.

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