Is Symbian dying? Vendors abandon platform

Nokia sticks with Symbian, but Samsung joins the rolls of those abandoning the mobile operating system.

Nokia will soon be the only manufacturer using the Symbian mobile operating system, as Samsung is the latest to announce it will stop making phones that run Symbian. The news comes shortly after Sony Ericsson said it will also stop making Symbian devices, in what could be a fatal blow for the OS.

In a note to its Symbian developers, Samsung said late on Thursday that it will discontinue its support for the platform from December 31 2010, and will also remove all content available to developers on the platform from its site. Certification of Symbian applications for the Samsung Apps store will cease on the same date.

Only last week, Sony Ericsson announced will no longer develop any new products for the Symbian OS, which still has the highest smartphone market share worldwide, mainly because it powers lower-end smartphones in Asia and other parts of the world. The only phone manufacturer on the Symbian Foundation members list still making Symbian phones is Nokia.

Not for the Long Haul

Samsung and Sony Ericsson are already developing smartphones using Google's Android OS, which some analysts predict will overtake Symbian in market share by 2014. Samsung has already seen success with the Android-powered Galaxy S smartphone line in the U.S. and worldwide, and also built a tablet using the OS. Sony Ericsson is also reportedly working on an Android-powered gaming smartphone.

However, Nokia thinks that defecting to Android is not a wise step for manufacturers. And an outgoing VP of the company reportedly said that phone makers who embrace Android are like Finnish boys who "pee in their pants" for warmth in the winter. In other words, Android would bring manufacturers short-term success, but it might not be the best idea in the long run.

Commenting on the Samsung and Sony Ericsson break-up with Symbian, a Nokia spokesperson told PC World that "these announcements have no impact on our commitment to Symbian. We started shipping our first S^3 device, the Nokia N8 yesterday and we expect to sell 50 million S^3 devices."

What's Next for Nokia?

Nokia is said to have considered moving Android, but the company persistently denies the claim. Back in 2008, Nokia bought the other half of Symbian for a reported $410 million, and made the OS open source in February this year. After such an investment, it's understandable why Nokia won't quit Symbian easily.

The Finnish phone maker then tried to revamp the aging Symbian OS along with the launch of the flagship N8 smartphone, which got high marks for its hardware. The software, however, was deemed disappointing by most reviewers, including PC World's own Ginny Mies. The N8 just started shipping this week, so handset's consumer reception is pending.

Nokia now has a new CEO, Stephen Elop, who has reportedly pursued a deal to produce phones using the upcoming Microsoft Windows 7 Phone OS. Nokia also plans to introduce next year high-end devices running on MeeGo, a joint venture between Nokia and Intel, merging the Maemo and Moblin Oss.

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Daniel Ionescu

PC World (US online)
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