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Symbian faces 'Titanic' task to go open source

17 июня 2010

Nokia's bid to transform its Symbian mobile operating system into a purely open-source platform has been a huge task, and one that could cost it the smartphone race, warned mobile synchronisation firm Funambol.

"Symbian is a great platform, but it's also huge. It's the Titanic of mobile operating systems... lets hope it doesn't suffer the same fate," said Hal Steger, vice president of marketing at Funambol, which provides an open-source server-side platform used to synchronise data on mobile devices and PCs with Web-based services.

He explained to Total Telecom how in some cases it can be challenging for companies to switch to an open-source model.

"Some programmers are like artists – they're used to working in a particular way and writing code that's theirs, and you can have a hard time convincing them to let their code suddenly be made freely available to anyone," he explained. "It can be really hard for a company to go open source if it hasn't been from the start."

Steger's comments were made as Nokia on Wednesday warned that its second-quarter sales and operating margins will fall short of expectations, and said its 2010 market share is likely to be lower compared to 2009.

The warning comes after the world's biggest handset maker announced in May its second restructuring plan in seven months in a bid to revitalise its lacklustre smartphone portfolio.

The move to restructure was driven in part by the delay of Nokia's first smartphone powered by the latest version of its now open-source mobile platform Symbian 3. The delay prompted the company to lower its full-year operating margin outlook.

"All the momentum at the moment is with Android," said Steger, who pointed out that first-quarter shipments of devices powered by Google's open-source operating system exceeded iPhones for the first time.

Indeed, the range of devices based on freely-available Android is growing all the time, and a number of models from the likes of HTC and Motorola have been well received by consumers in the U.S. and Europe.

"Device makers are first and foremost hardware companies, and some of them treat their software programmers as a bit of an afterthought, but Google has never been a hardware company," said Steger.

What's more, device makers are going to be more attracted to free source code that they can adapt and make their own, rather than pay to license software and rely on external software programmers to tailor it to their needs.

Steger also said that while Apple's closed iPhone environment has worked well so far, it will also prevent it from becoming the dominant player in the smartphone market.

"Steve Jobs is kind of a control freak – he wants to control the user experience from top to bottom," he said.

"It's worked well so far for Apple, but it's going to be overtaken by Android – it's already on more devices, and it's only going to become increasingly attractive to developers."

Источник: Total Telecom

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