More On The Big Symbian News

As Russell mentioned earlier, some big news from Symbian today. Nokia’s buying the rest of Symbian that it doesn’t already own, and will then create the Symbian Foundation, in collaboration with a number of other companies, and make Symbian royalty-free and open-source.

This is, as they say, A Big Deal.

First, the multiple UIs and platforms on top of the Symbian OS — S60, UIQ and MOAP — are disappearing and will be integrated into a single, unified platform with a common UI framework (with S60 at the core). That’s a big advancement in itself.

Second, Symbian will be available royalty-free. Anybody that wants to use it in handsets, or have access to the complete code, will just have to join the Symbian Foundation for $1500 a year. That essentially erases Android’s price advantage, and could lead to a raft of Symbian-based devices for the mid- and low-tier from OEM vendors.

Third, this should significantly enhance the ability of the Symbian platform to support custom UIs. As I’ve written before, this will be a key area of competition for mobile OSes, and the ability for manufacturers to create their own UI enhancements will be crucial. See my comment on that earlier post for a bit of I told you so :): “Perhaps it’s something that can change in future — making it easier for people to create custom UIs on top of Symbian, rather than having to license one of the existing ones.” Add in the ability for operators to further customize the UI of said devices (witness AT&T, NTT DoCoMo, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone as initial supporters of the Symbian foundation), and there could be an even bigger push here. And maybe we will see that Facebook mobile UI, too

As I said, this is a big, big deal. The Symbian OS has essentially become free, and this is a smart move on Nokia’s part as it stands to gain significantly from the further spread of Symbian and S60. It’s a significant answer to Android, and a good response to the iPhone as it should allow for a lot of innovation in the UI. What do you think?

For some more reading, AllAboutSymbian will, as you’d expect, stay on top of the story, while View From The Coalface has a good take on things, and Andrew Orlowski at El Reg weighs in with Symbian’s death knell.

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