The first version of Symbian to offer native Wi-Fi support was launched on Wednesday.
Version 9.3 of the mobile operating system is an update release, and according to Symbian’s vice president of product management and strategy, Jorgen Behrens, the version is fully backwards-compatible with all other iterations of version 9.
However Behrens told ZDNet UK that the update was — in terms of Wi-Fi support — comparable to the shift from Windows 2000 to XP.
"There are some phones on the market today that have Wi-Fi in them, but it's been added by the manufacturer," Behrens said on Wednesday, explaining that native Wi-Fi support would it easier to implement applications such as phone-based VoIP (Voice over IP).
Behrens suggested that the first phones to feature version 9.3 of Symbian would appear at the start of 2007. He was unable to provide many further details of the handsets, but indicated that the improved Wi-Fi support was geared towards so-called converged devices, which can switch between GSM and home Wi-Fi connections.
This technology could provide the next step for projects such as BT Fusion, which currently uses Bluetooth technology. According to Behrens, Symbian has seen "a lot of interest and a lot of movement towards these convergent services".
Another major development in the new version of Symbian is the shift from a proprietary tool chain to one based on the Eclipse open source platform.
Calling Eclipse a "very good tool for technology", Behrens indicated that there would be a period when both tools could be used in developing applications for Symbian.
He also claimed that the new version of Symbian would provide faster start-up times for phones and key applications, and faster synchronisation for contacts.
Symbian is the market leader in providing operating systems for smart-phones, its largest customer being Nokia.