Open source Symbian not enough

Reaction to the announcement that the Symbian OS is now Open Source code some four months before plan, has been mixed. Symbian is still seen as struggling against Android and the iPhone.

Under an Eclipse Public License (EPL) and other open licenses, all 108 packages which contain the OS source code can now be downloaded from Symbian’s developer web site here.

Also downloadable are the Symbian Developer Kit and the mobile devices development kit. These kits are compatible with the very latest version of the platform – Symbian^3.

Colly Myers – generally regarded as the father of Symbian – told Techeye: “Coming out four months early is commendable. They’ve done a good job.”

He added: “However, between 2002-2008 Symbian lost its way. It was driven too much by the handset vendors – particularly Nokia.

By introducing platform security, for example, Symbian made it even more difficult for developer’s to write apps. What’s the point of that?”

Myers felt that instead of expending its efforts on making the OS open source, the Foundation might have done better focusing on making apps easier to write.

Although Symbian’s CEO for four years, when Myers’ latest venture – 63336  – wrote its first app in many years, the company pointedly chose Java not Symbian for its handset client.

Industry watcher, Geoff Blaber from CCSInsight, took a very similar view. He believes that Symbian should have done a lot more to maintain developer interest.

Blaber argues that taking Symbian open source simply added to the complexities of the mammoth task of making the OS competitive.

Symbian was caught out by the handset industry’s transit to touchscreen UIs and the Foundation still has an uphill struggle to make legacy code designed for basic key input ‘touchfriendly.’

As TechEye has pointed out before here, Nokia is acutely aware that Symbian’s major disadvantage is its UI and has even put forward its proposals for a Symbian^4 UI before its own Symbian ^3 handsets have even been released.

SymbianNot everyone is negative about the availability announcement. IDC analyst, John Delaney, is quoted as saying: “It’s increasingly important for smartphone platforms to offer developers something unique. The placing into open source of the world’s most widely-used smartphone platform emphatically fits that bill.”

As one observer put it, though, releasing the code four months before promised still looks like too little too late. Symbian has let the mobile OS mantle slip to rivals such as the iPhone and Android.