Nokia has said it will stick with Symbian as its main business-phone platform even when MeeGo, the handset-maker's new top-end operating system, is released.
On Tuesday, Nokia business smartphones chief Ilari Nurmi told ZDNet UK that Nokia had "great converged device plans based on the MeeGo platform" and there were "different types of needs and wants in the enterprise market", but the new OS would not be pitched at the enterprise as a replacement for the ageing Symbian.
"It's very important to note that Symbian is the primary platform today and will also be the primary platform in the future," Nurmi said.
MeeGo, a descendent of both Nokia's Maemo and Intel's Moblin Linux distributions, is intended to span different devices ranging from smartphones to notebook computers. It is already available as a netbook OS but is yet to appear on a handset. The first MeeGo phone was originally supposed to come out this year, but in October new Nokia chief Stephen Elop pushed that release back to 2011.
Elop also changed the roadmap for Symbian, scrapping the 'binary break' between the current Symbian^3 and the future Symbian^4 versions in favour of a programme of incremental upgrades. According to Nurmi, this change of approach was "a very good move" from an enterprise handset perspective, as developers would not have to worry about writing for two different versions of Symbian.
"If you look at the largest Symbian developers, you take companies like Microsoft, IBM, Cisco — they are all Symbian developers who are developing the most important business apps for corporate users," Nurmi said. "All of these companies will benefit from the fact that there is a more evolutionary approach."
The first big update for Symbian will come in the first quarter of 2011. Nurmi would not explicitly detail the improvements this update will bring for enterprise users, but he said customers could expect to see "enhanced email capabilities, security capabilities in terms of more Exchange policies being supported, and plenty more things".
However, Nokia has no tool for letting IT managers with an estate of Symbian^3 handsets control the update's rollout. The update will be released over-the-air, and without third-party tools it will be up to each employee to accept or decline it as soon as it is offered.
"There are device management tools provided by third-party companies that are able to control what is being deployed by employees. They could be from the likes of Sybase," Nurmi said. "That said, 90 percent of companies probably don't utilise those tools."