UIQ/Motorola and Other Symbian Notes

I was in London earlier this week and hit Symbian’s Smartphone Show. The big news news was twofold: Motorola buying half of UIQ, and Nokia’s announcement of an S60 touchscreen interface.

First, on UIQ: this is a fairly big piece of news, as it would appear to confirm earlier statements from people at the company that the Z8, its UIQ 3 phone that was released earlier this year, wasn’t a “one-off”. From Motorola’s angle, the UIQ buy indicates their need for a platform for mid- and upper-end phones, and perhaps indicates that they won’t be looking to their Linux platform (whatever its latest iteration) for this part of the market — at least in GSM devices. For UIQ, the move represents a big opportunity to make an impact in the US market, where Moto remains a very powerful player despite its recent doldrums.

The Z8, despite a strong early buzz, has gotten a lot of mixed reviews, but it did signal a departure from the company’s RAZR-dominated porfolio and showed some real signs that the company can’t be written off. The device’s feature set and design does engender some confidence that its followups will be well received in the market.

The S60 touchscreen news grabbed a lot of attention, particularly in the post-iPhone world where everything’s seen as a reaction to Apple’s work. Personally, I didn’t find the news surprising, since Nokia’s got a history (albeit brief) with touchscreen devices, and the S60/Symbian combo has had the ability to support touchscreens for some time. The video on AAS shows some interesting stuff, and a lot of people seem excited about the potential of S60 touchscreen devices. But let’s wait and see something a bit more concrete than an announcement video before we get too excited, and see if the S60 UI folks can deliver something that’ll work well, and perhaps even change my feelings about touchscreen interfaces.

To be honest, I think that the announcements of new technologies within the Symbian OS — ScreenPlay and FreeWay, which will support faster data networks and graphics improvements — could prove more important in the long term than other news from the show. But of course, IP networking architecture isn’t particularly sexy 🙂

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