Tag: os

Symbian Foundation to slash its operations

In a despairing effort to save the dying Symbian operating system the Symbian Foundation announced today that it is to restructure its organisation and make a transition to just a licensing operation responsible for handing out licences to the software and trademarks behind the platform.

The move will mean a substantial restructuring of the Foundation, which has been operating since 2008. The first phase is set to involve a culling of staff numbers and an overall reduction in operations, which suggests that the organisation is unable to sustain its current spending for a platform that Gartner labelled as a “failure”.

The governance of the Foundation will also be restructured, with plans to have a group of non-executive directors overseeing the licensing of Symbian by April of 2011.

“The founding board members took a bold strategic step in setting up the Foundation, which was absolutely the right decision at the time,” said Tim Holbrow, Executive Director of the Symbian Foundation. “There has since been a seismic change in the mobile market but also more generally in the economy, which has led to a change in focus for some of our funding board members. The result of this is that the current governance structure for the Symbian platform – the Foundation – is no longer appropriate.”

Holbrow was keen to dismiss the widely-held view that the Symbian platform is dying a slow death, saying that it still enjoys “strong support” from a number of companies around the world. He said that there is still “solid momentum” behind the OS, citing figures suggesting that 25 percent of Symbian devices were shipped within the last year alone.

The news comes at a time when Symbian is losing support from all angles, with previous supporters like Samsung and Sony Ericsson backing out to support more successful platforms like Android and Windows Phone 7. The EC recently invested €11 million in the OS, but with its own directors jumping ship the last thing Symbian needed was a reduction in its Foundation’s operations.

The Foundation has promised that the cuts will cause as little disruption as possible and won’t affect the Symbian Exchange and Exposition conference set to commence tomorrow in Amsterdam.

Android Gingerbread update coming this week

The next update for Google’s successful Android OS, codenamed Gingerbread, is set to be released this week and will carry a lower version number than most people expected.

Android Police spotted a tweet from a member of the Open Handset Alliance, which is a consortium of around 80 handset manufacturers, mobile operators, semiconductor firms, and software companies supporting the Android platform, revealed that a Software Development Kit for the Android Gingerbread version is expected within the next few days.

The tweet came from Alvaro Fuentes Vasquez, a member of the leadership and usability team at the Open Handset Alliance, who wrote in Spanish:

“Preparen sus Nexus One (Developer version) para la actualización vía OTA de Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) para los próximos días :-D”

Google translated this to:

“Prepare your Nexus One (Developer version) for Android OTA update 2.3 (Gingerbread) for the next few days :-D”

Aside from the obvious importance of a release coming this week, the tweet confirms that the version of the update will be a more modest 2.3, rather than the substantial increase to 3.0 that most expected

It is not clear if this represents a scaling back of the update due to delays of major features or if the world simply got the number wrong, but since FroYo was quite a big update despite the small version number increase we can probably expect plenty in Gingerbread, including the highly anticipated user interface revamp.

The Nexus One became Google’s official developer phone after commercial failure. There have been recent rumours that a Nexus Two might be on the way, touting the new version of Android, but developers won’t need to fork out for a new phone if today’s news is true, as an over-the-air update should arrive for them by the end of the week.

A full public release is likely to be further off, possibly surfacing at the end of the month or in early December. This fits in with initial reports that Google wanted Gingerbread released by the end of 2010, where it will compete with an update to rival Apple’s iOS.

EC invests €11 million in dying Symbian

Symbian may be making its final death throes, but the European Commission (EC) is intent on making sure it won’t go out without a fight, investing €11 million ($15.5 million) in the platform to keep it out of the Reaper’s icy grip.

The Artemis Joint Technology Initiative, which is sponsored by the EC, picked Symbian as a vital product for the European mobile software development sector, providing half of the funding for the project with the other half coming from consortium members.

The Symbian Foundation will lead a new consortium called SYMBEOSE (Symbian – the Embedded Operating System for Europe) which includes 24 organisations from eight European countries. The organisations include mobile manufacturers, consumer electronics firms, mobile network operations, app developers, universities and research institutes.

The aim of the multi-million initiative is to revitalise the Symbian platform with a new array of projects, which will focus on improving the basis for new device creation on Symbian and developing a set of core platform enablers to future-proof some of Symbian’s features. Examples given included developing Symbian’s power efficiency and adding cloud computing features.

“We and the consortium are very excited by this opportunity to spearhead next generation technologies on Symbian and we’re thrilled that the EC has decided to invest in the future of the Symbian platform and its global ecosystem,” said Richard Collins, Technology Manager at the Symbian Foundation. 

SYMBEOSE will continue to develop Symbian with the Symbian Foundation as an open source software product, but with a much larger and more successful open source rival, Google’s Android, it’s unlikely that this investment will really rescue it.

In both July and September of this analysts at Gartner said that Symbian is “doomed” and a “failure”, citing the falling support for the platform among its previous allies. Sony Ericsson and Samsung abandoned the failing OS to support Windows Phone 7, Android, and Bada instead. 

Even one of the main Executive Directors of the Symbian project decided to jump overboard recently and let the ship sink. We hope the European Commission brought a life jacket.

*EyeSee Actually, Symbian got  €11 from the EC and €11 from the consortium. Sorry Symbian! Clarification on the blog, here.

Android 3.0 Gingerbread details leaked

Details of Google’s latest incarnation of its Android operating system, dubbed 3.0 or “Gingerbread”, have been leaked, revealing a graphical overhaul, integrated Google apps, video chat support, and a faster operating speed.

The leaks came courtesy of Phandroid, which claims to have a “trusted source close to Google.” They supplied a lot of details and even a picture, but the latter is so badly blurred that it’s mostly illegible and provides no real proof of what the new OS looks like.

Looks are the focus of the day, however, as we have come to expect from previous hints. Android has long been criticised for its user interface, which many believe simply is not up to par with Apple’s iOS. This has caused many manufacturers to develop their own UI overlay for Android, such as HTC’s Sense and Motorola’s Motoblur. That is all set to change, however, with the source suggesting the new version of Android will look and operate a lot like Sense.

Changes to the stock UI include the decision to use the colour green a lot more, given it’s the colour of choice for the logo and mascot. Orange will still be used at times, however.

The icons have been redesigned to look more easy on the eyes and more uniform, with Phandroid believing they have now been designed by one person as opposed to several different people, helping to give a more unified experience.

One major change to the OS is stronger integration of the apps to make them appear and feel like an extension of the platform as opposed to something added to it later. This means a complete overhaul of how things look and work for many applications, such as Youtube and a variety of other Google applications.

Built-in video chat is also on the cards and may be the answer to Apple’s recent addition of FaceTime to the iPhone 4. This should work through Google Talk, but there’s also a suggestion that Google is planning to add full Voice support to allow users to make phone calls over their wireless connection. This remark was qualified by statting that the feature may not be ready in time for Gingerbread’s release (which appears to be imminent) and won’t be available for earlier versions of Android.

Speed is also on the cards, with plans to up performance of the OS like Android 2.2 did in comparison to 2.1. Gingerbread will continue to use the Dalvik JIT compiler to bump up CPU speeds and there’s talk of adding more hardware acceleration for even greater performance.

There was no confirmation of the much rumoured high system requirements, which many have suggested will be 1GHz of processor speed and 512MB of RAM. Quite a lot of phones do not have that spec at the moment, which will mean a lot of upgrades if people want to use Gingerbread, but luckily the market has already seen dozens of powerful Android phones release, which should be able to run the new version.

It also looks like the fourth quarter 2010 release date could be pushed back to the first quarter of 2011, but talk of not having time to integrate certain features suggests to us that Google is still planning to get it out by the end of the year.

Symbian executive director jumps ship

Symbian has received another nail in its coffin with the Foundation announcing today that its Executive Director, Lee Williams, has left his post.

The announcement follows a turbulent few months for the OS. Earlier this month Samsung announced that it would no longer be using Symbian on its handsets and Sony Ericsson also dropped it from its range. This led analysts Gartner to call the project “an open source failure.”

The departure of Williams, who took over the role two years ago and tried to breathe life into it through a quirky rebranding and meetings with Asian manufacturers in an attempt to get Symbian on a broader range of devices, will come as a blow to the Foundation.  

He will be replaced by Tim Holbrow, formerly the Symbian Foundation’s CFO, to the position of Executive Director.

Patrick Pfandler, lead mobile analyst at Futuresource, told TechEye: “Samsung is expected to focus its OS strategy on Android and Windows Phone 7 for the mid- and high-end market and bada for the low-end. Sony Ericsson’s main focus is on Android and is expected to launch a Windows Phone 7 handset end 2010 or early 2011.

“Despite the loss in support, Symbian is still the number one operating system worldwide and is forecast to account for approximately 40% of smartphone shipments in 2010.

“Although Nokia is losing market share in Western Europe and the USA, mainly due to the impact of Android and iPhone, Symbian S60-powered mobile handsets from Nokia are still in high demand in emerging markets including the Middle East, parts of Asia and Africa.

“It remains to be seen whether phones that run on the latest Symbian^3 platform (such as N8, C7 and E7) will attract consumer spending power, thus providing traction for Symbian and Nokia.”

In a statement the Symbian Foundation said: ‘The Symbian Foundation is today announcing that Lee M. Williams has stepped down from his position as Executive Director for personal reasons. We thank Lee for his work over the past two years and wish him all the best in his future ventures.

The Board of Directors has appointed Tim Holbrow, formerly the Symbian Foundation’s CFO, to the position of Executive Director with immediate effect. We congratulate Tim and welcome him to his new role.’

In September, Gartner released data that predicted Android would come close to passing Symbian as the world’s top smartphone platform in 2014 with 29.6 percent of the market compared to 30.2 percent for Symbian.

Apple to show off corporate Mac OS on Wednesday

Apple is set to unveil a new version of its computer operating system for the corporate market on Wednesday, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The updated OS is expected to be revealed at the Back to the Mac event at its headquarters in Cupertino, California, and the news may surprise many as the technology giant, famed for its focus on consumer products like the iPhone and iPad, delves into the corporate field.

Apple has had surprisingly good success with its iPhone and iPad in the business sector, giving Research In Motion, which has been king of the smartphone market for the corporate side of things, a run for its money. This success may have prompted the decision to make products directly aimed at businesses and expand the reach of the company.

The iPad has also become a success story in the business world, with many believing it and rival tablets would eventually replace the netbook as a portable work device. Apple claims that half of the Fortune 100 companies use iPads, suggesting widespread adoption.

This approach was reinforced recently when just last week AT&T announced that it would be selling iPads directly to businesses, along with a discounted data plan.

This is not enough for Apple, however, with news of plans to get businesses to replace their Windows or Linux-based PCs with Apple Macs touting a new corporate version of its Mac OS. Details are slim on what exactly the new operating system will include, but it should make Macs a more appealing option for businesses.

Troubled Nokia sees MeeGo Devices VP resign

Troubled phone firm Nokia could be in more hot water.

The mobile phone manufacturer has announced that its MeeGo Devices VP, Ari Jaaksi,has resigned. According to sources Jaaksi chose to leave and not over complaints with new Nokia CEO Stephen Elop.  

We spoke with Nokia which said it still aims to release the first device this Christmas, however it was unable to tell us much more – “Nokia is currently remaining silent,” a representative told us.

Jaaksi was partly responsible for the development of Maemo, the Linux-based platform that formed part of the basis of the MeeGo co-project with Intel.  According to Endgadget  he will be replaced by Alberto Torres, who until now was EVP of Nokia Solutions.

The announcement could be a blow to Nokia, which has been pinning all its hopes on the MeeGo following the slow death of its Symbian OS. Sony Ericsson ditched Symbian recently for Android and Windows Phone 7, while Samsung already left it behind when it coupled with Android and its own Bada some time back.

Last month analyst Gartner  hit out at Symbian  describing it a “failure.”

The MeeGo OS is targeted at mobile and embedded devices and was first announced in February. It is a collaboration between Intel and Nokia and is managed by The Linux Foundation.

Mobile-Reviews Eldar Murtazin claims that although Nokia’s N9 hardware is “near perfect”  the MeeGo software build is “not so good at the moment.” Not sounding good for MeeGo.

Nokia hasn’t had a good year. It posted poor financial figures back in July and is way behind the rest of the gang for smartphones.

Qualcomm launches Augmented Reality SDK for Android

Qualcomm has today launched its free Augmented Reality Software Development Kit (SDK) for Android smartphones, opening new avenues for developers to create interactive 3D apps that allow an additional layer of virtual data to be placed over our everyday world.

Qualcomm has been working on an Augumented Reality platform for a while and believes it can offer a better version of the technology than rivals on the market. Most Augmented Reality techniques require the use of GPS and a compass to place the virtual objects on the underlying terrain, but Qualcomm’s approach is “vision-based”, where graphics are placed directly over real world objects, making them look like they are literally there.

Qualcomm first unveiled its Augmented Reality platform at its Uplinq Developer Conference in San Diego, California on July 1 of this year, garnering a lot of interest from toy companies and game developers who see Augmented Reality as the next big thing.

Toy manufacturer Mattel licensed the platform for its Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em game and plans to include Augmented Reality in more of its products. Ogmento, one of the first companies to specialise in Augmented Reality games, has also signed a deal with Qualcomm to use its platform on a number of upcoming titles.

While the big developers will be turning directly to Qualcomm to licence its platform, smaller developers working with Google’s Android operating system will be free to work with the new Software Development Kit to create games and apps that merge the virtual world with the real.

The SDK includes an advanced feature set, which allows augmentation of everyday images, both 2D and 3D. It even allows user interaction with the augmented objects by physically interacting with the real world, opening up a number of possibilities for new gaming experiences.

UEFI says instant-on PCs may arrive in 2011

The Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) Forum has made new advances with its firmware interface, originally developed by Intel, so much so that it says we could have almost instant-on PCs available for sale as early as 2011.

Currently it takes most between 30 seconds and several minutes to boot up their PC. Windows Vista was a particularly bad culprit of long boot times, while Windows 7 has built on this. Microsoft has promised that Windows 8 will deliver faster boot times, but the problem is not limited to the operating system alone; the Basic Input/Ouput System (BIOS) is also a contributing factor.

“At the moment it can be 25-30 seconds of boot time before you see the first bit of OS sign-on,” said Mark Doran, head of UEFI. “With UEFI we’re getting it under a handful of seconds. We’re not at instant-on yet but it is already a lot better than conventional BIOS can manage, and we’re getting closer to that every day.”

Doran revealed that the BIOS tends to take a long time to recognise hardware peripherals on modern computers, effectively operating in the same way it did with older machines. A new BIOS that can more quickly recognise things is needed, which UEFI intends to offer.

Some attempts have been made to reduce boot times, such as using SSDs, MRAM, or hybrid hard disks, but they have often been unsuccessful or overly expensive options. A faster BIOS is a very cheap alternative and could cut boot times drastically if UEFI’s interface is employed in next year’s PCs.

Google is currently working on a fast-boot Linux-based operating system called Chrome OS, which promises to deliver extremely fast boot times by cutting out much certain elements of a standard OS. This will mean it will have a limited scope of application, however, since it is primarily designed to get people on the net.

HP is also looking to enter the arena of quick-booting. In June it acquired a fast-boot Linux OS called HyperSpace, which promises boot times of a couple of seconds.

RIM shows off Blackberry Playbook

Research In Motion (RIM) has unmasked its newest shambling shoggoth, the “new professional-grade” Blackberry Playbook tablet, with the obligatory OS unsurprisingly called Blackberry Tablet OS, based on the QNX Neutrino microkernel. It has a 7-inch capacitive touch screen with a resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels and naturally supports all the sort of fingering smartphone users have become used to.

It packs two HD cameras allowing users to sing Bohemian Rhapsody during a video conference, decodes 1080p HD video alongside DivX, WMV, H.264 and can also playback MP3, AAC and WMA. Who would’ve thought that. In contrast to the Apple iPad it also has a microUSB and a microHDMI port, although it is missing a slot for a microSD card. RIM however stated the specs aren’t finalised and other features will be unveiled before it hits the market.

Research In Motion Playbook

The CPU will have two cores and be clocked at 1GHz. Further details on the processor weren’t given, so it may be an Nvidia Tegra 2, a Qualcomm Snapdragon, or even a Samsung Orion. It can at least be surmised it won’t be brain matter wetware, as such technology is not yet available on this planet.

Le Playbook’s Webkit supports HTML5, Adobe Flash Player 10 and Mobile Air, setting it apart from a certain competitor with lesser features. Users of Blackberry smartphones can hook their handset up to the Playbook using Bluetooth and peruse their emails, calendar, tasks and content stored on their phone on the nicer, bigger screen. Smartphone data is cached on the Playbook, which is naturally compatible with Crackberry Enterprise Server and will make the IT department happy.

After a first quarter 2011 launch in the US of A, Research In Motion say the Playbook will hit the EU sometime in next year’s second quarter.