Symbian goes for the suits

At its annual developer conference on Tuesday, Symbian will unveil its plans for challenging Microsoft for the enterprise market

Symbian, the smartphone operating system developer, is to revamp its enterprise strategy at its annual developer conference beginning on Tuesday.

The company is also launching an open-source software development tool and a new partner programme aimed at expanding the range of games and other applications available for Symbian phones.

While not well known to end users, Symbian is backed by all of the largest mobile phone makers, including Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Samsung, Siemens and Motorola. The company has seen an eightfold increase in the number of Symbian handsets shipped in Europe over the past year, according to recent figures, as licensees such as Nokia and Sony Ericsson have launched new models.

However, the smartphone market is still in its early stages. Symbian is facing stiff competition from Microsoft's Smartphone 2002 software, particularly in large businesses. Last year's developer expo largely focused on consumer devices, but this year the company will outline its plans to conquer the enterprise, said a spokeswoman.

On Monday, Symbian released its Open Programming Language (OPL) development tool for Symbian OS version 6.0 and 6.1 under the open-source LGPL licence. An open-source licence generally allows developers to modify and redistribute the software as long as they make improvements available to the community.

Symbian OS 6.0 runs on Nokia devices such as the Communicator line, while 6.1 runs behind Nokia's Series 60 interface. Series 60 is found in Nokia's 7650 and has been licensed to several other device makers, including Siemens and Samsung. Sony Ericsson's P800 runs on Symbian OS version 7.0, for which OPL is not yet available.

OPL started life as a development language for Psion's handheld computers, running the EPOC operating system that later became the Symbian OS. The language was popular with both hobbyists and commercial developers, and Symbian hopes that releasing it as an open-source project will mean an increase in the software available for Symbian devices. The project, hosted on SourceForge, will also allow programmers to port OPL to other versions of the Symbian OS.

OPL is an on-device programming language, meaning that programs can be written and run on the same Symbian device. Like Java, it requires a runtime environment on the device to interpret the code, but this can be included in devices by manufacturers.

"OPL has a loyal developer community," said Hayden Smith, co-maintainer from the developer community, in a statement. "Making OPL open source will enable developers to commit to its future. I look forward to other developers helping with the project and porting OPL to new Symbian OS phones."

Also on Monday, Symbian launched its Affiliate Partner Programme, which aims at small and medium businesses creating after-market software such as applications and games for Symbian phones. Initial members include application developer Epocware and 3D games maker Xen Games.

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