Nokia: We will define 'open' for Symbian

Summary:Nokia smartphone chief Jo Harlow tells ZDNet UK what the company intends to do with Symbian now it has complete control over its development, and explains the differing strategies behind Symbian and MeeGo

Jo Harlow heads up Nokia's smartphone business, and as such plays an integral part in the way the Finnish company develops and updates Symbian devices such as the consumer-orientated N8 and business-focused C7.

On Monday, Nokia announced that it was bringing the development of Symbian back in-house after a two-year period in which the platform was open-sourced under the auspices of the Symbian Foundation.

In addition, new Nokia chief Stephen Elop said last month that Symbian would in future be updated in a new way — incrementally, rather than in a succession of major versions.

ZDNet UK spoke to Harlow on Tuesday at the Symbian Exchange and Exposition 2010 in Amsterdam to find out more about Nokia's plans for the world's most widely deployed smartphone platform.

Q: Is Symbian still open? How will Nokia change its licensing terms?
A: I don't have the complete answer right now because this is something we're currently working on, over the course of the next three months, with the Foundation and our partners. We will define what 'open' means — we believe in being open, but we'll define what that means in the future and, from a licensing perspective, the direct relationship between Nokia and others.

Will other manufacturers still be able to build Symbian devices, if they choose?

Why did Nokia bring Symbian back in-house? Was it because Sony Ericsson and Samsung decided not to build any more Symbian devices?
First of all, Nokia was already doing the vast majority of the development of the Symbian platform. The decision to wrap down the operations of the Foundation was really taken by the Foundation, not Nokia — we are a board member, one of 11 or 12.

If you go back to the reason the Foundation was created in the first place, each of the manufacturers was expected to contribute code. Having the Foundation and a governance approach to the Symbian platform made sense. Now that the decisions have been made by some of the other manufacturers, it's clear the role of the Foundation in its current form is not needed. For us, it means not a lot. We will continue to develop the Symbian platform and we no longer need to have the extra step of working with the Foundation in terms of making that available to third parties.

So does that mean development of the platform will now speed up?
In eliminating some of the additional steps and work necessary in terms of working with the Foundation, yes, that should bring some benefit. I wouldn't characterise it as a dramatic improvement in time-to-market, but it is a simplification.

If you think about what is a UI paradigm, the UI paradigm of an iPhone is that you're standing at the front door of the house and you can go to any other room, but then you have to go back. The UI paradigms of Android and Symbian are similar: that you can go into a room and into the next room.

What sort of updates can we expect to see to the Symbian UI, and when?
In early 2011 there will be things like split-screen text entry, portrait Qwerty and Swype integrated into the UI, as well as a new browser and a new browsing experience that is much more modern. We will...

Topics: Mobility


David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't be paying many bills. His early journalistic career was spent in general news, working behind the scenes for BBC radio and on-air as a newsreader for independent stations. David's main focus is on communications, of both... Full Bio

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