Symbian vs. Android

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2009-10-28 Print this article Print

The Symbian OS is the leading smartphone OS in terms of market share, but Android is looking quite strong, according to analyst reports. Some reports have Android coming in second to Symbian as early as 2012. According to Gartner, Android's share will be at 18 percent of all smartphones sold globally in 2012, or about 94 million users out of 525 million, said GigaOM.

In his keynote at the Symbian Exchange & Exposition (SEE 2009) here on October 27, Williams did not single out Google specifically by name, but he did take a few generic shots, saying: "I've heard other companies stand up and say they have the world's most powerful operating system. I think they're wrong. ... If it took me six months to add cut and paste, I'd be embarrassed."

Williams went on to give the audience a bit of the upcoming road map with the Symbian 3 and Symbian 4 platforms.

Meanwhile, during a Nokia Media Day event here, Shaun Puckrin, head of developer services at the Symbian Foundation, said Symbian represents "the biggest market available to developers. We outship our next competitor by two."

Added Puckrin: "Sure Android is open source, but we are a community that adopts things from the actual developer community; that's a difference. ... Whilst Android is open source, it's been difficult to get changes into the OS. But we're attempting to get to a genuine open-source project. I think the proof will be in the pudding."

Moreover, Puckrin said that, though Android is an open-source project, "it's more about using open source than being open source."

John Forsyth, a member of the Symbian Foundation leadership team who is responsible for technology and delivery management, echoed Puckrin and Williams. "With Android you can't get a road map," he said. "We have an entirely transparent process from that perspective. You can go to our site and see every feature that is being planned. With Android, the real source sits behind the Google firewall."

For his part, Forsyth noted, "There's a halo effect people try to get out of open source without actually playing by the rules. You almost get a grudging respect for Microsoft when you see this kind of thing."

Puckrin said he believes proof of Symbian's seriousness about open source is its move to open-source the operating system kernel. "We concentrated on the kernel, which is the crown jewel of the platform," he said. "It set a benchmark and it says we're serious about this." Both Puckrin and Forsyth added that because Symbian has successfully open-sourced the kernel of the Symbian OS, the rest of the platform will follow easily and the organization will meet its planned schedule of having the entire platform open-sourced by the second half of 2010.

"While Lee [Williams] has his personal opinion, I think how Google acts in general is open source," Forsyth said.

Meanwhile, Forsyth questioned the Android architecture itself.

"It's a late '90s architecture," he said. "It's Java-not as light and fast as an AJAX [Asynchronous JavaScript and X M L] environment. Android's a bit unnecessary, and I don't think it's in Google's best interest. But they have a bit of a 'see what sticks' mentality." 

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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