Embedded Symbian scheme gets €11m in EU funding

Symbeose, a consortium that intends to develop Symbian as 'the embedded operating system for Europe', has won millions in EU funding to work on technologies such as multi-core processing and cloud computing

The European Commission has assigned funding to a scheme that will see the Symbian mobile platform developed further for embedded systems and cloud-computing purposes.

The Commission's contribution of €11m (£9.6m) matches that provided by the consortium behind the scheme. The industry grouping, called Symbeose (an acronym for 'Symbian — the Embedded Operating System for Europe') comprises 24 organisations including major European tech firms Nokia and ST-Ericsson, along with two technology consultancies, seven software component manufacturers and 15 commercial and academic R&D organisations.

Symbeose won the funding by applying to be part of the Artemis public-private partnership that was set up in 2006 with a seven-year budget of €3bn. Artemis is focused on embedded computing, but in a blog post announcing the funding on Monday, the Symbian Foundation said that Symbeose would also examine new techniques in asymmetrical multi-core processing and cloud computing.

"The precise aim of the Symbeose consortium is to instigate a series of state-of-the-art development projects that will create new opportunities for Symbian's global stakeholders," Symbian Foundation technology manager Richard Collins wrote in the blog post. "Broadly speaking, the proposed advances to the Symbian platform will focus on radically improving the basis for new device creation on Symbian.

"Additional work will concentrate on a set of core platform enablers that will support the types of mobile services that will be most prevalent in the near future," he added. "For example, the Symbeose initiative will develop new core platform capabilities, providing the best possible levels of power efficiency and improving Symbian's current... offering in this area."

Symbian is the most widely used smartphone operating system in the world, although its market share is steadily dropping in the face of competition from more touch-friendly rivals such as Android and iOS. The Symbian Foundation and Nokia have also been in turmoil in recent months, with many people associated with Symbian leaving the company and the foundation.

An Artemis proposal presentation (PDF) on the Symbian developer website states that "the Symbeose concept is to preserve Symbian's position as the world leader in operating systems software development and set it on an industry-changing path to make it the focus for future European mobile technological development". It also suggests that Symbian should be chosen for the Artemis funding to combat the "mobile device and service homogeneity exemplified by Android and iOS", and because "20,000 jobs in Europe depend on Symbian".

Telecoms analyst Dean Bubley said on Wednesday that the Commission should not be funding Symbeose and other projects such as the Webinos scheme for creating a universal open-source application platform.

"I don't think it's an appropriate use of governmental or regional funds," Bubley said. "It doesn't strike me that they're doing anything that private companies can't do themselves. I completely support EU funding for science and certain aspects of tech, but competing with or basing decisions around existing commercial solutions is a poor use of money in constrained times."

Bubley questioned the sense of defining any operating system as being geographically specific to Europe. He suggested that "if it was the Finnish government propping up Nokia, the other parts of the EU would be having a word with them".


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