Nokia has brought Symbian back in-house, little over two years after it released the mobile platform to the wider industry.
On Monday, the Symbian Foundation — established in 2008 to govern the open-sourcing and development of the operating system after Nokia bought the platform out — said it would scale back to nothing more than a licensing organisation. Nokia said it would continue to support Symbian, which it will now develop with its own resources.
The Symbian Foundation's statement said that Nokia had "committed to make the future development of the Symbian platform available to the ecosystem via an alternative direct and open model", but Nokia's statement made no mention of letting other manufacturers release further Symbian devices.
Nokia was in any event the only phone manufacturer left supporting what is the most widely-used smartphone operating system in the world, but a platform that is rapidly losing market share in the face of more touch-friendly competitors such as Android and iOS. Both Samsung and Sony Ericsson announced in the last few months that they would no longer make handsets using the system, and many executives associated with Symbian — including foundation chief Lee Williams — have stepped down.
"The founding board members took a bold strategic step in setting up the foundation, which was absolutely the right decision at the time," Williams's successor and former chief financial officer Tim Holbrow said in a statement. "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."
According to the statement, Symbian Foundation operations and staff numbers will now be wound down, and by April next year the foundation will be governed by a group of non-executive directors "tasked with overseeing the organisation's licensing function".
In a separate statement, Nokia said it "plans to continue to invest its own resources in developing Symbian, the world's most widely used smartphone platform, and expects to deliver a strong portfolio of Symbian-based smartphones to people around the world".
"The future of Symbian as a platform does not depend on the existence of the foundation," Nokia smartphones senior vice president Jo Harlow said. "The changes announced by the foundation have no impact on Nokia's Symbian device roadmaps or shipping commitments. The platform powers hundreds of millions of smartphones — including our own — and we expect to deliver ongoing support and innovation benefitting the Symbian ecosystem in the future."
In October, new Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop revealed a new strategy for Symbian in which the platform will no longer make a major shift to a new UI in the next version, but will instead be gradually upgraded to become more user-friendly in the touchscreen smartphone era.
In its statement on Monday, the Symbian Foundation said its impending transformation would not affect the Symbian Exchange & Exposition 2010, taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday in Amsterdam. ZDNet UK will be at the show.