The announcement that the Symbian Foundation is to undergo major changes and hand back development to the world’s best-selling, but ultimately struggling, mobile operating system hardly came as a surprise.
After all, the Foundation has been hit by the recent resignation of its CEO Lee Williams, not to mention Samsung and Sony Ericsson’s confirmation that, while they’re not leaving the promotional group, they will no longer make phones using the OS.
At face value, it might seem hard to agree with Nokia’s smartphone boss, Jo Harlow, that the Symbian Foundation’s shift to a purely promotional and protective role will not affect the roadmap for Symbian devices.
Indeed, Nokia even announced yesterday that the E7 would be out by December, despite persistent rumours that the headline new device would be slipping into 2011.
But this could well be the best thing for Symbian. Nokia insiders recently complained about a huge disconnect between the hardware and software components of the business. That’s certainly obvious when you play with older S60 devices and even with the Symbian3-packing N8, to a certain extent at least.
By bringing the development side back in-house, Nokia can focus on creating a more unified product - surely the aim of this move and something which new Nokia CEO Stephen Elop will want to see.
It will also allow for even greater control over the final product and should mean future handsets using the Symbian 3 platform feel properly thought out. This change will affect how Symbian rolls out in 2011 and beyond, no matter what Nokia and its execs might say. But not necessarily for the worse.
MeeGo is undoubtedly going to be the headline grabber for Nokia next year, but Symbian will need to play an important back-up role, offering something solid-if- unspectacular to the still-vast numbers of people who don’t want an expensive smartphone.
This move is simply Nokia consolidating Symbian and preparing for it to play second fiddle to MeeGo. From a PR perspective, it can’t have Symbian dominating headlines while MeeGo is just around the corner. That will cause the new OS to lose mindshare.
The changes to the Symbian Foundation are smart. And while they might not stop of the OS’s decline, they’ll help the platform remain a simple option for millions of mobile users around the world.