Symbian Open-Sources Smartphone Platform

The Symbian Foundation has announced its completion of the open-sourcing of the Symbian Platform with the release of Symbian 3.

The Symbian Foundation has announced its completion of the open-sourcing of the Symbian Platform with the release of Symbian 3.

On Feb. 4, Symbian Foundation officials said the organization had successfully completed the open-source release of the source code for the Symbian Platform, which has become the world's most widely used smartphone operating system.

Indeed, the Symbian Platform, which has been developed over 10 years and has shipped in more than 330 million devices around the world, is now completely open and the source code is available for free under the EPL (Eclipse Public License).

Initially, the foundation projected that its effort to open-source the Symbian Platform would take until June of 2010, but the team was able to beat that mark by four months.

"We are pleased to see the release of such a significant code contribution under the Eclipse Public License," said Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, in a statement. "The rate at which the Symbian Foundation has worked to make its platform fully open has been very impressive."

In an interview with eWEEK about the move, Larry Berkin, director of Global Alliances at the Symbian Foundation, said he believes the effort to open-source the Symbian source code was the biggest open-source migration project ever.

Berkin said any individual or organization can now take, use and modify the code for any purpose, whether for a mobile device or for something else entirely.

Ultimately, Berkin said this strategic move provides the Symbian ecosystem with greater potential for innovation, faster time-to-market and the opportunity to develop on the platform for free. Symbian's commitment to openness also includes transparency in future plans, including the publication of the platform roadmap and planned features up to and including 2011. The Symbian Foundation already is at work on Symbian 4, the next major version of the platform, and has begun sharing the road map for that, Berkin said.

However, analysts note that Symbian will face increasing competition from the likes of Apple, Google's Android, Palm, Microsoft and Research In Motion. In fact, IDC predicts that the Android platform will move into second place in the market behind Symbian by 2013.

In a statement, Lee Williams, executive director of the Symbian Foundation, said: "The development community is now empowered to shape the future of the mobile industry, and rapid innovation on a global scale will be the result. When the Symbian Foundation was created, we set the target of completing the open-source release of the platform by mid-2010 and it's because of the extraordinary commitment and dedication from our staff and our member companies that we've reached it well ahead of schedule."

"It's ahead of schedule and that can be attested to the open forum," said Berkin of the development process the Symbian Foundation has adopted.

"It's increasingly important for smartphone platforms to offer developers something unique," said John Delaney, an analyst with IDC. "The placing into open source of the world's most widely used smartphone platform emphatically fits that bill. It will be exciting to see where this takes the industry."

Despite maintaining a leadership position in terms of smartphone platform market share, the Symbian Platform has not been as successful in the United States as it has been in the rest of the world, particularly in emerging markets. However, the foundation is working to change that.

Berkin acknowledged that that have been some missteps earlier in the efforts to tap the U.S. market, but that the foundation sees the United States as a major opportunity. Additionally, "The U.S. is a focus for a lot of our partners," he said.

In a statement, Peter Ropke, senior vice president of Devices R&D at Nokia, said: "Nokia congratulates the Symbian Foundation on the completion of its platform migration to full open source well ahead of schedule - a significant milestone for the Symbian platform, the foundation and the entire mobile industry. With this achievement, the world's most popular smartphone platform is available in its entirety for developers around the world to innovate on and contribute to, enabling new opportunities for engagement and monetization. For Nokia, this truly open platform environment brings the promise of exciting new user experiences for our Symbian-based smartphones."

All 108 packages containing the source code of the Symbian platform can now be downloaded from Symbian's developer Website under the terms of the EPL and other open-source licenses.

Also available for download are the development kits for creating applications, known as the Symbian Developer Kit, and the kit for mobile devices, known as the Product Development Kit. These kits are compatible with Symbian 3, the very latest version of the platform, which is now fully open source and will be feature complete during the first quarter of 2010.