Formed in June 2008 after a Nokia buyout, the Symbian Foundation is an organisation that aims to fully open up the mobile operating system. David Wood is a key member of the organisation’s new leadership team and I have a meeting with him this Wednesday. As such, I decided to read some of his recent musings on the Symbian roadmap and I think it makes for interesting reading.
The Symbian Foundation’s inaugural meetings have resulted in an agreement to take a ‘multi-angle’ review of the content they are making available. Symbian^2 is the first release for which the source code is available on the Mercurial repositories on the Symbian developer web site. It is expected to be ‘hardened’ by the end of the year and will support multiple form factors, resolutions and input methods.
While Symbian^2 is said to be particularly suitable for device manufacturers who already have experience working with previous versions of the Symbian OS, manufacturers who are new to Symbian in general are expected to go straight to version 3.
Symbian^3 is expected to first bloom week 04 2010 and to be ‘hardened’ by week 26 later that year. Version 3 will, we’re told, feature support for hardware-accelerated content into UI elements – something that Symbian calls ‘ScreenPlay technology’.
According to web site all about Symbian (dot com), ScreenPlay technology is, “Designed for mobile devices with user interfaces which integrate high definition video content, life-like games and animations. It significantly enhances content presentation in versatile, yet simple new ways - by using transparency and overlays.”
Looking further ahead still, planning for Symbian^4 is at an earlier stage right now but can be estimated to follow Symbian^3 by around six months. When it does arrive it will reputedly be optimised for the Qt application and UI framework. Qt is described by Wood as ‘well-liked’ – and so it should be as the company (formerly known as Trolltech) now sits similarly under the Nokia brand umbrella.
Symbian^4 is also planned to contain more than 50 widgets tailored for mobile user experiences. As well as new “Direct UI” interaction and navigation logic combined with finger-optimised layouts.
If you are like me, you might just be thinking how do these guys lay out their future OS formation so accurately and if they know about all these enhancements now, why don’t they trial some of then in Beta stage and/or make them more developer-facing earlier? The answer may lie in the very open nature of the Symbian Foundation’s openness. I asked Wood about this over the weekend and found that he too works on a Sunday!
“Owners of open software platforms have to choose between the ‘closed route to openness’ and the ‘open route to openness’. In the former route, little information is shared in advance about the intended contents of future releases, or about the issues and challenges being faced by the development team. The software is open, when it arrives. In the latter route, the platform provider invites community members to become deeply involved in the discussion about future options for the platform. Not only is the software open; decisions about the software take place openly. The community becomes part of the solution, rather than the recipient of the solution. That's the route that Symbian seeks. You can already see good results from this approach in some very thoughtful comments on our blog posting. Symbian council members are reading these comments and using them as input for their own discussions,” said David Wood, Catalyst & Futurist, Leadership Team, Symbian Foundation.
Roll on Wednesday, it’ll be even better if I can find the Symbian Foundtion offices, which are located not five minutes walk from Waterloo but on a road that 99% of London cabbies have never heard of.