SAN JOSE, Calif. The Symbian Foundation is officially making available as open source code the Symbian version 3 smartphone operating system. Symbian has the broadest use of any smartphone OS, but trails the Google Android environment by more than a year in being available as open source.
"There wasn't an open source alternative until now so we anticipate a proliferation of smart phone and other devices based on Symbian," said Larry Berkin, head of global alliances for Symbian in the U.S.
Taking a different view, market watcher Forward Concepts (Tempe, Ariz.) estimates Symbian will shrink in its share from 43 to 38 percent of the market over the next five years. It sees competition heating up with the Apple iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, Research in Motion, Palm Pre environments and others.
"Although Symbian will clearly drop in market share in the high-end smartphone market, it is well positioned in the mid-range and entry-level smartphone segments that are both poised to grow," said Satish Menon, who tracks the sector for Forward Concepts.
Symbian enjoys strong support from DoCoMo and Japanese smartphone makers in addition to its traditional base with Nokia and others, he added.
Symbian share of the smart phone OS market expected to fall to about 38 percent in the next four to five years, according to Forward Concepts.|
Berkin positioned Symbian as more vendor neutral than Android. Four governing councils oversee Symbian's direction with much of their work published publically. "That cannot be said of any other open source code," he said.
Symbian will be available online starting February 4 under an Eclipse Public License. The license allows developers to modify and distribute the code without requiring any licensing on the resulting commercial software.
Berkin said handset makers are releasing Symbian version 2 devices now. Version 3 handsets are expected to follow starting late this year.
Nokia, Fujitsu, Samsung, Sharp and Sony Ericsson use Symbian today. The Foundation did not announce any new users in connection with the open source release.
Developers have created tens of thousands of Symbian applications, Berkin said. However, they are available across a fragmented set of application stores run by different carriers and handset makers. Symbian has created a digital certificate program for signing apps as a way to provide a central resource about what apps are available.
"We're enabling other app stores, but Symbian will not have its own app store," he said.
Version 3 sports several new features including support for HDMI output, a more efficient memory management scheme and a new 2-D and 3-D graphics architecture. It also enables links to the Internet with a single click, multiple instances of an app to run in parallel and a means of recognizing a song played over the radio so it can be purchased in a music store.
The new code has the same recommended hardware requirements as the previous version. Version 3 can run in 128 Mbytes RAM and can run on an ARM11-class processor.
A number of Symbian Foundation members released supporting statements in tandem with the announcement.
"When we joined the board of the Symbian Foundation in October 2009, we signalled our commitment to the continued commercial success of the Symbian platform," said Hideyuki Saso, president of the ubiquitous products group at Fujitsu.
"We believe this will create new innovation on the platform and bring additional benefits to consumers," said Patrik Olsson, head of software at Sony Ericsson