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Symbian show hints at future user interface

Presentations at the Symbian Exchange and Exposition 2009, held this week in London, suggested how the future mobile OS might look
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1 of 10 David Meyer/ZDNet

This week saw the Symbian Exchange and Exposition (SEE 2009) take place in London.

The show was unusual in that the Symbian operating system, best known for being the powerhouse behind Nokia's smartphones, is currently being open-sourced and is therefore between two versions that will probably differ greatly.

As much of the proprietary intellectual property in the old Symbian may not carry through to the new version, the Symbian-based phones that appear in 2010 may look very different from those that are available now.

Lee Williams (pictured), chief executive of the Symbian Foundation, said at the event on Tuesday that the new Symbian would be "the world's most advanced OS" for mobile phones.

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2 of 10 David Meyer/ZDNet

Near-field communications (NFC) is the short-range wireless technology that is currently most familiar through smartcards, such as London's Oyster travelcard.

NFC allows devices to pair and transmit data through a simple swiping action. Phone manufacturers have long been keen on incorporating such functionality into their devices, in a bid to have handsets replace travelcards and debit cards.

Nonetheless, Symbian's Lee Williams said at SEE that NFC had "the ability to truly form how mobile products and services interact with the world", and promised such functionality would be fundamental to the new Symbian platform.

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3 of 10 David Meyer/ZDNet

Williams also touted the social-networking integration he said would be evident in the new Symbian.

He said the Social Web application programming interface (API) that will address Symbian handsets from the second half of 2010 would help developers "reach through all the applications" in the system, and allow for mashups and widgets that tap into the user's social-networking profiles.

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4 of 10 David Meyer/ZDNet

Williams showed off a video demonstrating what he called a "mock-up mashup" of the new Symbian's social-networking integration capabilities.

The video, which he stressed did not show the new Symbian's actual user interface, detailed how a user might respond to an event invitation in Facebook, then use other functionality in their Symbian handset to find the party.

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5 of 10 David Meyer/ZDNet

This picture from Williams's video shows the user, who previously agreed to attend a party, choosing which view in the Symbian handset's mapping application they wish to see — street map, satellite or augmented reality.

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6 of 10 David Meyer/ZDNet

Now the user has chosen the augmented reality view, which uses the handset's camera to get a live video feed then overlays Facebook-derived geolocation data, he or she can see precisely which building to go to.

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7 of 10 David Meyer/ZDNet

Nokia's head of technology management, David Rivas, also showed a video at SEE 2009.

His video was intended to detail the user interface improvements that Symbian developers will see now the operating system uses the Qt graphical toolkit; Nokia acquired Qt along with Trolltech in 2008.

This shot from the video demonstrates Qt-enabled kinetic scrolling — the function that lets a user flick their finger up the screen to scroll quickly up or down a list.

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8 of 10 David Meyer/ZDNet

This shot shows off the 3D rendering capabilities of the Qt toolkit.

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9 of 10 David Meyer/ZDNet

In this picture from Nokia's video, a Symbian phone-user taps into OpenStreetMap using a Qt-created interface.

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10 of 10 David Meyer/ZDNet

Nokia's Qt video also demonstrated the user flipping between application screens in a 3D environment.

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