Is Symbian the Mobile Platform for the Masses?

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2009-12-28 Print this article Print

As 2009 comes to an end, the Symbian Foundation is looking ahead for ways to ensure that the Symbian mobile platform will remain the most popular smartphone platform and will continue to win developer mind share.

As 2009 comes to an end, the Symbian Foundation is looking ahead for ways to ensure that the Symbian mobile platform will remain the most popular smartphone platform and will continue to win developer mind share.

In a Dec. 24 post about this, Lee Williams, executive director of the Symbian Foundation, called out the "incredible flexibility, robustness and adaptability" of the Symbian OS as key factors for its success. Added Williams: "We enjoy better multitasking capability [and] better power management, security and scale of market than any mobile platform out there. It is clear that we have a unique offering and an OS architected for mobile from Day 1, and poised to continue to appeal to the marketplace at a tremendous scale."

Moreover, Williams said in that post:

"From 2010 onwards Symbian-powered smartphones will continue to bring the web to people who cannot afford a PC and who need to be on the move as a part of their lifestyle, perhaps because they might be farmers in a rural area of the India sub-continent, or small business owners in a remote area of China. We will be directly assisting them in linking them into a global economy, and we will be giving them computing power and access to essential applications and services in finance, payments, healthcare, transport, entertainment ... and so on."

However, where Williams sees a rosy current and future situation for the Symbian platform, one reader of his post saw things a bit differently.

In a Dec. 25 response commenting on Williams' post, a reader identified as PP said:

"I'm sorry, I guess Christmas is bringing out the Scrooge in me, but on what planet does Symbian "enjoy better multitasking capability [...] than any mobile platform out there"? The one with the rose-tinted vistas on which Symbian represents the pinnacle of single-handed "focus UI" evolution I suppose. On power management, security, and scale of market you could at least muster a bit of a wine-fueled post-turkey debate...

"I don't like to nitpick at this time of year, but it betrays a certain uninformed complacency on the technical side that isn't particularly healthy. When Symbian sets its stall out against Android and Google these days, it's exclusively about how open Symbian is and how nefarious Google's intentions are (and hell, I don't want to live in Google's ad-laced dystopian future either). On the technical/feature side, though, we just get assertion-without-proof of leadership juxtaposed with an 'Ideas' site which is for the most part just a shopping list of features already present on other platforms. Frustrating. Let's hear an engineering argument, just for once!"

Expanding on his call for an engineering discussion of the issues, PP said he "called out multitasking just because it's so blatantly incorrect today. Versus iPhone? Sure. Versus Android, Maemo or WebOS? Hardly. You could point to Symbian/Nokia's hugely expensive investment in three-plane architectures under the hood, but (a) they've not shipped yet, and (b) they've never been proven to take Symbian beyond the performance and responsiveness achievable through more pragmatic means on top of Linux anyway."

And PP questioned Symbian's ability to back up Williams' claims, saying:

"Now of course if you *could* concretely demonstrate Symbian's superiority over current-generation Linux-based mobile operating systems in this, or indeed in any area where Symbian traditionally held an advantage before the hordes descended to improve mobile Linux (e.g. power management, ROM/RAM footprint), then that would be a blog post that would get people's attention..."

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.

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel