View Full Version : Bookmark: Symbian to work on OS not UI, 4 new UI's soon

17-10-2002, 11:14 AM
According to this article (,3959,637396,00.asp) on EWeek Symbian are concentrating on the OS rather than the UI. Aside from this having been known before (the Series 60 is a Nokia UI and the UIQ has become a SE thing) it does make the decision clearer. The article also mention 4 new UI's will be arriving soon mainly in the Asian market. Read the full story for analysis.

What does this mean?
Well it means more work for developers - they'll have to spend more time working on the different UI's but good program design will solve almost all of those problems (for ER5 users amongst you it is like designing a program to work on the Revo and the Psion 7). A common underlieing OS will make thing much easier. It should be noted that the OS differences are far smaller than between say Pocket PC Phone and Ms Smartphone. Symbian will defientely have an advantage here.

More UI's will allow greater manufacturer differentiation which although a pain in the neck in a way is probably a good thing. Why? One of the strategic weakness of Symbian has been the danger that manufactuers phones will all look the same and there's nothing to choose between them. The handset producers loose a lot of their power (becoming like the desktop PC producers) while the OS and UI holder gets the stranglehold. Incidentally this explains the Nokia move into Software in the form of Series 60. That will be far less of an issue now and will be good for Symbian in the long run.

The fact that Symbian is not going to be a UI producer may affect its revenue (it'll be getting less for just an OS as opposed to an OS plus UI), but in terms of the reduced devlopment work this may well even out. And if manufacturers can do their own thing on the UI front then it may encourage them to go for more Symbian OS based phones. A double edged sword here perhaps?!

The four new UIs for the Asian markets is interesting. Not only does this tell us that there are several Symbian Asian phones on the way, it suggest a proliferation of devices and manufactuers. Mainly Asian suggests we may well see another UI in Europe (perhaps a large UIQ or small Series 60?). The Asian market is going to be important for Symbian becomes it will represent the large market of the next 10 years. If Symbian were to crack the China market that alone would probably be enough to make the company profitable (we're talking potentially a billion users here after all...).

So this news hides important underlieing strategic implications and gives us a glimpse of future devices. Perhaps announced Symbian devices will make it to double figures by year end (instead of 20+ we suspect are being developed, but not announced....).

17-10-2002, 11:49 AM
Question for everyone out there.

Now the split is clearer, does support for C++ and Java become an OS issue or a UI issue? What about Visual Basic? Or Forth? Or OPL?

(Come on, you all know I think having OPL in the runtime a la Java is a good idea...)

18-10-2002, 09:22 AM
I think people should note that for games UIs are not really an issue on SymbianOS as the drawing routines are pretty much common across all the versions. All the developer really needs to worry about are different screen sizes. Obviously menus and stuff are slightly different also but I can imagine all implementations for this kind of thing closely related.

I appreciate for apps this is different but often the naming for the different types of the UI controls are very similar anyway.

18-10-2002, 11:11 AM
Which is all well and good if you're using C++ and have direct screen access, but under OPL (and Java) you're left with the interface given to you. Besides, you still need to have the runtime in the machine for many langugaes, and I personally feel a lot of 9210 games would be better if they obeyed the Standard UI interface for apps rather than the ludicrous Games Specific one supplied by Nokia.

Have a look at Vexed and see how it fits in nicely with the look of everything else. Now imagine the mess it would be with an alternative UI? Using the same UI over games and main apps has been the norm on PDA's for years, why change it now?

18-10-2002, 04:51 PM
THere is a pointless article on The Register ( about this which talks as if it is a major event and starts suggesting Nokia may look elsewhere for their OS.

TO me this is ridiculous. THe Series 60 platform is far more than a UI - from what i have seen, nearly everything it does is courtesy of symbian os. sure, you can make a ui look the same on any os, but you would need to do a lot of work to get linux doing what symbian does for you already. and why bother so save a few quid on a many hundred pound phone?

Symbian have never had their own ui on any commercial products anyway so what's the big deal? the 9210 was meant to be familiar to 9110 users, the R380 was, well, the R380 and before that there were just Psions.

I think it is inevitible that the phonecos will adopt their own UIs. They want to build up their own brand look and feel and they have no pressure to push an OS brand like the myriad microsoft pocket pc box shifters. Nokia and Ericsson want to psh their own UI - they have the relationship with the user, NOT Symbian.

this looks like someone at the Register with an axe to grind... it is a pointless story!

18-10-2002, 05:03 PM
I too have noticed that the Register seems to be less pro Symbian nowadays. They're probably fed up with waiting for the P800 :)

In retrospect I think Symbian not providing the UI is probably a good move. I've always thought that one of the problems with Microsoft's and Palm's position is product distinction. All the devices are basically the same with a couple of different bells and whistles. This mean's you tend to end up with a generally accepted best top of the range and budget device that sell well, the rest suffer as a result.

Allowing people to develop their own UI is good for variety of device type and function but bad for developers who want to write code once and run it anywhere. Nothing in life is straightforward ;)