Representatives of the major mobile-phone manufacturers joined mobile-operating-system vendors and even operators on Tuesday to announce the Symbian Foundation.
The Symbian, Series 60, UIQ and MOAP platforms are to be merged into an open-sourced platform to rival Google's much-feted Android Open Handset Alliance project. The Symbian Foundation list of founding members includes most major handset vendors, in addition to mobile-software platforms, and several network operators.
Nigel Clifford, chief executive of Symbian, was one of the main speakers during the press conference. He stressed that Symbian is the most widely used mobile-software platform on the planet. "The first 100 million devices took eight years to ship," he told the press conference. "The second 100 million took just two years."
Asked why Symbian is going to give away its licences now, after 10 years, he said: "What we are doing is releasing the deluge that will come from an ecosystem here. In the past, phone makers had to think about which user interface and operating-system combination they would use, then there were developers who had been faced with licence arrangements. This is epoch-making and very different from anything that has happened before."
"We want to respond to any barriers to innovation," said Clifford.
Mats Lindoff, chief technology officer of Sony Ericsson, said the Symbian platform will be released under the Eclipse Public License. "Moving the code to open source will engage the broader community to participate in future development and innovations," he said. "If you arean enthusiast [or] developer [the tools and the licensing] will be absolutely free. To develop an application on the platform, you do not need to be a member [of the Symbian Foundation]."
Alain Mutricy, senior vice president of Motorola, said the Symbian Foundation will bring the different Symbian user interfaces and application frameworks together. "The Symbian world will then be unified around one common platform. It will enable everyone to accelerate the deployment of applications. The open Symbian ecosystem, now unified through the foundation, will become richer and stronger, especially when the foundation software becomes open source. The foundation will be open to anyone willing to contribute. It will attract more developers, more suppliers and more OEMs, so carriers will see a greater opportunity."
Mutricy went on to outline the timeline for the Symbian Foundation. "In the first half of 2009, we expect to launch the Symbian Foundation with all assets made available to members," he said. "The first complete Symbian Foundation release can be expected during 2010. Devices up to this point will continue to be developed using Symbian, Series 60, UIQ, etc, available from the foundation royalty free."
Kai Öistämö, Nokia's head of devices, refused to give Google the satisfaction of saying the Symbian Foundation was a response to the search giant's much-hyped Android mobile software platform. "Looking at this as a response to anything would not really be doing justice to the boldness of the move," he said.
Later during the press conference, Öistämö said: "In the beginning, we will probably be the biggest contributor to the foundation, but it is important to look at the structure: it is a non-profit, independent foundation that is not controlled by any individual company."