Symbian Preps Next 2 OS Versions

The Symbian Foundation is gearing up to deliver Symbian^3, the next major version of the Symbian OS, and the foundation sheds more light on Symbian^4, the subsequent release that will overhaul the Symbian user interface.

The Symbian Foundation is gearing up to deliver Symbian^3, the next major version of the Symbian OS, and the foundation has shed more light on Symbian^4, the subsequent release that will overhaul the Symbian user interface.

In a Jan. 7 blog post, Victor Palau, a member of the release management team at the Symbian Foundation, said Symbian^3 is nearing FC (Functionally Complete) status, and should be FC in February.

A description of the upcoming Symbian OS on the Symbian Foundation site explained, "Symbian^3 (pronounced 'Symbian three') is the second open version of the Symbian platform. It extends Symbian^2 in many ways, including graphics support for advanced layering and effects, full HDMI [High-Definition Multimedia Interface] support for a great television playback experience and improved data performance."

According to the description, some of the key Symbian^3 features include:

""- Networking: An improved networking architecture, ideal for streaming high definition audio and video- Multimedia: Full HDMI support with HDCP [High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection] to provide a great high definition video experience when plugging your mobile device into a television- Graphics: Re-architected to [harness] the full power of graphics hardware acceleration and provide support for advanced layering and effects- Connectivity: Integrated Near Field Communications (NFC) support to enable a variety of use cases including electronic ticketing and touch-to-connect Bluetooth pairing- Hardware adaptation: Delivery of the first phase of the Symbian Hardware Abstraction Interface (SHAI), lessening the amount of work required to port the platform to new hardware- Usability: Improved single tap support to make the UI more fluid and easy to use""

Palau said contributions to Symbian^3 "have come fast and thick over the last month."

Indeed, Palau said, "Of the 43 package [features] tracked in the integration plan for Symbian^3, 30 have already been contributed to the foundation code line. These are:

"- Multipage Homescreen - Provide multiple home screen supports- 3PC - Bearer mobility support in 3PC and adoption- WDP - Proven Writeable Demand Paging platform support- HD video - Support for files of over 2GBs that will enable HD video- One-click connectivity - Simpler connection dialogue that requires one click only- Song recognition and music store integration with radio application- Remote contact look-up - plug-in framework to allow easy integration of remote contact look-up""

Meanwhile, with progress on Symbian^3 moving along, "at the same time Symbian^4 is starting to build up a substantial contribution plan with already 60 package features," Palau said.

According to the Symbian description, "Symbian^4 ... is expected to be functionally complete in the second half of 2010, supporting devices shipping [in] early 2011 [and] onwards. Symbian^4 has a big focus on user experience including Direct UI-a complete makeover of the touch UI-and widespread enhancements to the application suite."

"Symbian^4 is mainly known for the complete overhaul of the UI environment, but today I would like to highlight the ISB ECAM contribution plan," Palau said in his post, referring to the ECAM contribution from ISB. ECAM is the name of the camera API in Symbian.

Martin Webb, technology manager for multimedia at the Symbian Foundation, said in a Jan. 5 post on the Symbian blog, "ECAM has always been an area in which handset vendors traditionally differentiated, which meant they made their own camera implementations since each differed greatly. This is good for competition, but prevented developers from working with camera-based use cases in generic reference environments-in other words, you needed a real phone in order to experiment with video recording and image capture, since the core platform did not implement these.

"The ISB contribution will initially target the QEMU environment, and will enable camera use cases (both image capture and video recording) via a standard PC Webcam."

Palau said the ISB ECAM "will provide the capability to use a PC development environment (and consequently a better debugging experience) for camera applications, which until now [could] only be tested using ... production hardware."

Among the new features coming in Symbian^4 according to its wiki page are DirectUI, enhanced applications and Qt and Orbit for enhanced developer tooling.

"The Qt 4.6.1 application framework was first made available as a part of the Symbian platform in Symbian^3. In Symbian^4 Qt becomes the standard environment in which all native applications are written and run. In addition, Symbian^4 delivers Orbit, a set of UI widgets that make it easy to create an attractive application that takes full advantage of the underlying power of the Symbian platform," the description said.