In a meeting with eWEEK prior to the start of the Symbian Smartphone Show here, David Rivas, vice president of product and technology management for S60 Software in Nokia's devices business, shared a road map of Nokia's plans regarding open-sourcing its developer platform and the Symbian operating system. Nokia announced plans to acquire Symbian in June.
"We hope to close the acquisition by the end of the year, and in the first half of next year we'll launch the Symbian Foundation," Rivas said. Meanwhile, the Symbian OS, S60, the UIQ (formerly known as User Interface Quartz) and MOAP (Mobile Oriented Applications Platform) software will all be contributed to the Symbian Foundation in the first half of 2008 and the source code will be made available to members, with the first integrated release of the entire stack available in 2009. Moreover, the overall platform assets will be made available as open source within the next two years, Rivas said.
Why is Nokia going this route? Well, certainly to try to maintain its lead in the handset space, as Linux and open-source alternative technologies may begin to eat into Symbian's market-leading share of the business. But, also, "the fundamental economics of software development leads you to open-source software," Rivas said.
The whole plan is dependent on whether Nokia's deal to acquire Symbian goes through, Rivas said, but added that the deal is all but done.
"Our CEO is asking us why we're spending a pile of money for Symbian just to give it away," Rivas said. "However, we're creating an open-source foundation to distribute and manage Symbian OS and the S60 software, called the Symbian Foundation. This organization is truly open to anybody who wants to join, and we'll provide the source code for free to anyone who joins the organization."
Rivas said right now Symbian boasts about 46 percent of the smart-phone market, but combined with NTT Docomo under the Symbian Foundation umbrella, the organization will hold about 60 percent of the market.
"Because Symbian OS is the market leader, we have the ability to drive demand and value," Rivas said. He noted that Symbian is the most mature smart-phone platform. "We're at a point with the handset industry such that all the manufacturers are landing on a buy decision in the build versus buy situation. And as we look out on the landscape we see Windows Mobile, Android and S60. There's free and there's proprietary and royalty bearing-which is well represented by Redmond. Free has been immature, with one phone in the market. With the Symbian Foundation move we have a system that's free but mature."