Friday 2 July 2010

The first major casualty of the smartphone arms race?

I'm referring of course to the news that Nokia is dropping Symbian in favour of MeeGo on future N-series devices.  And of course, this is  the "battle" (dramatic I know) for the position of the pre-eminent smartphone operating system.

To clarify the title slightly, whilst I see Windows Mobile and Palm's WebOS as having lost the battle too, I never really considered them in it, so they were more like collateral damage than casualties.  

So this is big news as far as I am concerned!

You could argue that Symbian s60 was the original smartphone OS, with the likes of the N95 being the trailblazers for the devices that we see today.  These early N (and to a certain extent E) series devices from Nokia brought, to the consumer, capabilities beyond that of a mobile phone - whilst being no fan of Nokia, I do think that we need to recognise what they have and, to a degree, continue to bring to the industry.

But in recent year, Symbian suffered.  It really did suffer.  The likes of the N97 were really poor devices, in comparison to their peers.  I was working at Nokia at the time as the N97 was launched and there was real buzz about it.  Unfortunately, even for "Nokians" the reality didn't meet these expectations.  

Sadly, Symbian is the Woolly Mammoth of operating systems - once proud, but unable adjust to the changes in the evolving climate; or to keep up with the newly evolved, agile and adaptable mammals.  

Nokia gave it's own Linux based OS (Maemo) a go in the, also disappointing, N900 and then joined forces with Intel (with their OS Moblin) to develop the open source OS MeeGo.  It is this that will power future N-series devices.

Is this a good decision?  I think so.  At least, compared with the alternatives it seemed like the only real decision.  With iOS4 and Android striding onwards, Nokia simply had to act or suffer the fate of being relegated to a feature-phone manufacturer.  They wouldn't like that in Espoo...!

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