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Will Open Source Symbian Slow Linux Penetration?

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Few months ago Nokia open sourced its Symbian Platform. It was a major change in the mobile operating system segment. We approached Todd Day, Industry Analyst, Mobile & Wireless Communications, Frost & Sullivan, to understand this development from their point of view.

Linux Veda: How do you perceive this development – Why did Nokia choose to make Symbian open source? Is open source development model better than the proprietary one?

Todd Day: When Nokia purchased Symbian in 2008, it created the Symbian Foundation in an effort to standardize the OS globally. The initial plan was to deliver the Symbian OS as Open-Source in 24 months, however, the initiative finished 6 months ahead of schedule and released the open-source code for the OS on Feb 4th. Both open source development and proprietary models have pros and cons, so which model is better remains to be seen. Traditionally, quality and consistency tends to follow the proprietary model, whereas economies of scale, availability, and consumer familiarity tend to follow the open source model.

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Linux Veda: How will open sourcing Symbian help Nokia, considering Symbian already enjoys Lion’s share in the mobile OS market?

Todd Day: Currently, Nokia is the primary user of the Symbian OS – although they also are the primary device manufacturer as well. Nokia, much like RIM, Apple, Motorola, etc. tend to have certain characteristics associated with their devices and their applications. With the Symbian OS openly available, Nokia will be in a better position to take advantage of OS improvements and application development made for non-Nokia devices.

Linux Veda: How do you see the players like Sony, Samsung, LG do which use Symbian as well as Linux in their phones. Will this move to open source Symbian affect Linux penetration in mobile phone segment?

Todd Day: This depends on the definition of Linux phones. Currently, Google Android and Palm WebOS are Linux-based operating systems which will likely continue to grow in the smartphone market at a rapid pace. However, this will definitely help Symbian maintain the majority share of the global smartphone market. If you are referring to the non Android or WebOS Linux phones, then yes, open source Symbian will likely slow the penetration of Linux in the mobile phone segment.

Linux Veda: Nokia is also working closely with the Linux Community — Maemo has earned a lot of respect. What do you think will survive in Nokia devices – Linux or Symbian?

Todd Day: I think that it is still too early to tell. Odds are, there will be several variations, upgrades, and development initiatives for both until a determination can be clearly made as to which of the operating systems show the most long-term promise.

Linux Veda: Do you think that Open Source Symbian will adversly affect Linux’s adoption in mobile space?

Todd Day: Linux will continue to be used and tested by a number of participants in the mobile OS market. This also goes back to the definition of Linux devices.

Linux Veda: Do you see any possibility of Nokia’s shift toward Linux and Symbian Foundation become a ecosystem for apps development? The ‘power’ of Symbian is strong developer base due to familiar technology. Is there any such possibility? If not how much sense it makes for Nokia to work on two different platform – Linux and Symbian?

Todd Day: As the largest phone manufacturer in the world, Nokia must explore every opportunity that it possibly can for future device advances. This includes development of Linux and Symbian based devices. As far as the possibility of Symbian Foundation becoming an ecosystem for apps development, I believe we’re too close to the release of the Symbian OS code to be able to make a determination. Symbian currently has a lot of applications and customers, so in the event that Symbian is not successful in the continued development of its OS, it may in fact shift to a more application centric purpose.

Linux Veda: Considering Apple’s Apps, the situation today is Apple vs the rest. Most players are working on Linux platform, including Sony, Motorola and Samsung. What is the possibility that these player come together to jointly create an App Store to better channelize resources and create an alternative to Apple’s dominance?

Todd Day: If they end up needing to, the big players may look to coordinate their efforts in the application store arena. However, currently, these manufacturers are still looking for a way to differentiate their devices from other manufacturers’ devices. One of the ways they are looking to do so is through unique application development and software tools. A good example of this would be HTC’s Sense which gives most of the newer HTC devices a similar look and feel, along with added functionality and ease of use for HTC’s customers.

Linux Veda: How do you see as this diversity of OSes in mobile segment — bane or boon? Should not there be some body to ensure interoperability and compatibility among such devices?

Todd Day: This is one of the biggest problem areas that I see in the immediate future for open source OS’s. An application made for a specific device may not necessarily work on another device running the same OS. This is one of the areas that the proprietary model which RIM and Apple uses has an advantage. In the event that applications don’t work properly on any specific Google Android phone (Android as an example, but the same holds true with any other open source OS), the OS, the device manufacturer, and the carrier will all get a small piece of the blame. The user experience will be one of the most important factors over the next 2-3 years as the smartphone market continues to mature.Few months ago Nokia open sourced its Symbian Platform. It was a major change in the mobile operating system segment. We approached Todd Day, Industry Analyst, Mobile & Wireless Communications, Frost & Sullivan, to understand this development from their point of view.

Linux Veda: How do you perceive this development – Why did Nokia choose to make Symbian open source? Is open source development model better than the proprietary one?

Todd Day: When Nokia purchased Symbian in 2008, it created the Symbian Foundation in an effort to standardize the OS globally. The initial plan was to deliver the Symbian OS as Open-Source in 24 months, however, the initiative finished 6 months ahead of schedule and released the open-source code for the OS on Feb 4th. Both open source development and proprietary models have pros and cons, so which model is better remains to be seen. Traditionally, quality and consistency tends to follow the proprietary model, whereas economies of scale, availability, and consumer familiarity tend to follow the open source model.

Linux Veda: How will open sourcing Symbian help Nokia, considering Symbian already enjoys Lion’s share in the mobile OS market?

Todd Day: Currently, Nokia is the primary user of the Symbian OS – although they also are the primary device manufacturer as well. Nokia, much like RIM, Apple, Motorola, etc. tend to have certain characteristics associated with their devices and their applications. With the Symbian OS openly available, Nokia will be in a better position to take advantage of OS improvements and application development made for non-Nokia devices.

Linux Veda: How do you see the players like Sony, Samsung, LG do which use Symbian as well as Linux in their phones. Will this move to open source Symbian affect Linux penetration in mobile phone segment?

Todd Day: This depends on the definition of Linux phones. Currently, Google Android and Palm WebOS are Linux-based operating systems which will likely continue to grow in the smartphone market at a rapid pace. However, this will definitely help Symbian maintain the majority share of the global smartphone market. If you are referring to the non Android or WebOS Linux phones, then yes, open source Symbian will likely slow the penetration of Linux in the mobile phone segment.

Linux Veda: Nokia is also working closely with the Linux Community — Maemo has earned a lot of respect. What do you think will survive in Nokia devices – Linux or Symbian?

Todd Day: I think that it is still too early to tell. Odds are, there will be several variations, upgrades, and development initiatives for both until a determination can be clearly made as to which of the operating systems show the most long-term promise.

Linux Veda: Do you think that Open Source Symbian will adversly affect Linux’s adoption in mobile space?

Todd Day: Linux will continue to be used and tested by a number of participants in the mobile OS market. This also goes back to the definition of Linux devices.

Linux Veda: Do you see any possibility of Nokia’s shift toward Linux and Symbian Foundation become a ecosystem for apps development? The ‘power’ of Symbian is strong developer base due to familiar technology. Is there any such possibility? If not how much sense it makes for Nokia to work on two different platform – Linux and Symbian?

Todd Day: As the largest phone manufacturer in the world, Nokia must explore every opportunity that it possibly can for future device advances. This includes development of Linux and Symbian based devices. As far as the possibility of Symbian Foundation becoming an ecosystem for apps development, I believe we’re too close to the release of the Symbian OS code to be able to make a determination. Symbian currently has a lot of applications and customers, so in the event that Symbian is not successful in the continued development of its OS, it may in fact shift to a more application centric purpose.

Linux Veda: Considering Apple’s Apps, the situation today is Apple vs the rest. Most players are working on Linux platform, including Sony, Motorola and Samsung. What is the possibility that these player come together to jointly create an App Store to better channelize resources and create an alternative to Apple’s dominance?

Todd Day: If they end up needing to, the big players may look to coordinate their efforts in the application store arena. However, currently, these manufacturers are still looking for a way to differentiate their devices from other manufacturers’ devices. One of the ways they are looking to do so is through unique application development and software tools. A good example of this would be HTC’s Sense which gives most of the newer HTC devices a similar look and feel, along with added functionality and ease of use for HTC’s customers.

Linux Veda: How do you see as this diversity of OSes in mobile segment — bane or boon? Should not there be some body to ensure interoperability and compatibility among such devices?

Todd Day: This is one of the biggest problem areas that I see in the immediate future for open source OS’s. An application made for a specific device may not necessarily work on another device running the same OS. This is one of the areas that the proprietary model which RIM and Apple uses has an advantage. In the event that applications don’t work properly on any specific Google Android phone (Android as an example, but the same holds true with any other open source OS), the OS, the device manufacturer, and the carrier will all get a small piece of the blame. The user experience will be one of the most important factors over the next 2-3 years as the smartphone market continues to mature.

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