Video: Anssi Vanjoki on Symbian, MeeGo, N95 form factor

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In part 2 of our MWC interview with Anssi Vanjoki, EVP of Markets at Nokia, there is discussion of how moving Symbian into the Symbian Foundation stops the platform being "fractioned by individual product programs [within Nokia]". We also touch on whether there is a future for the 'Nokia N95 form factor' smartphone.

In the second half, Anssi Vanjoki talks about Nokia's software strategy and how the common elements of Qt and common Web Runtime provide a unifying layer between Symbian and MeeGo. He then touches on the importance of open source as a new 'software making model' for Nokia moving forward.

Key points

  • The evolution of Symbian into the Symbian Foundation means that the platform will be less fractioned (fragmented) by productprograms (families of devices) within Nokia.

  • It is built and delivered as a platform rather than being customised for each family of Nokia devices. This happened at both the large scale (S60 3rd Edition versus S60 5th Edition), and, more critically, between device families running the same theoretical version (e.g. Eseries versus numbered). This should make things much easier for developer (delivering a true platform promise for testing etc.).

  • By making the change to the Symbian Foundation model, Nokia will effectively be supporting fewer product lines. It will therefore be better able to manage programming resources.

  • Nokia sees the future of smartphones, in general, as being comprised of touchscreen and hybrid (touchscreen + QWERTY) rather than the non-touch screen devices, as typified by the N95. [editor's note: the future of candy bar qwerty phones likes the Nokia E72 isn't entirely clear]
  • With MeeGo, Nokia has created a platform for devices which will replace personal computers (PCs). It is about "stretching beyond the Smartphone to something which is going to be the true next generation of computers". Nokia have always seen Maemo as a five step program and the "guts of the [final] step" is the combination of Maemo and Moblin.
  • MeeGo and Symbian have "Qt and common Web Runtime as the unifying layer for 85% of application and service development."
  • The most important thing for Symbian and Meego are that they are software assets, which, while originally developed by Nokia, are now "truly open source". Nokia "have moved the whole software making model into a completely different environment."

Video - Anssi Vanjoki - part 1


Anssi Vanjoki makes it clear that both Symbian and MeeGo are vital to Nokia's future, but equally important are the unifying elements between them: Qt and common Web Runtime, and both platforms' truly open source nature.

A key part of this interview is the emphasis on the importance of open source and how Nokia regard this as moving 'the software making model' to a new environment. This is a keystone in Nokia's software strategy. It is embracing openness in its software strategy to an unprecedented degree for a company of its size.

We have one further part of this interview to share: there's more on Symbian and MeeGo. We also look at the future, the importance of open standards and the three types of competitors for Nokia.

See also:

Video: Anssi Vanjoki on the N97 and Symbian^3 (part 1 of this interview)



A rough transcript of the video is provided below:

Anssi Vanjoki [Nokia], continuing discussion from part 1:

You know, one of the problems we have had with Symbian is that it has been fairly fractioned actually. If you go to the deep guts of what is there in the software, if you compare 5800 to E71 and it is very different, there is no real reason, other than we have been developing it when we were doing everything inside [Nokia]. We were developing it for product programs [families of devices]. Therefore the step to found the foundation and give the whole thing there (so that it will be a community and foundation) means that now we will have a software that is not fractioned by individual product programs. [Now] it is a deliverable from the Foundation, which is the same for everyone, and that will give more comfort that we can then we can stretch that whole thing longer, than when you have to deal with it [internally for product programs].

It is also, for Nokia, a big plus, not only for the Foundation, in terms that we do not need to tie up so many people to individual product programs, but we can use the mass of our programming much more for platform level efforts, which also, if it ever happens again (and I hope it never happens again) that we have this kind of quality problem like with the N97, that we can address it faster because we can throw all the resources on it immediately - we don't need to support individual product lines.

Anssi Vanjoki, answering question, 'is there space in the market for the N95 / N86 form factor?':   

Basically my answer is no. I think what we have seen is that the usability of the different services is much more about large screens and direct access to things, rather than pull down menus and things like this. So I think that these hybrids are in particular, the ones where you have full QWERTY and beautiful large sized touchscreens.

Rafe Blandford [All About Symbian]:

And you think that is the future going forwards?

Anssi Vanjoki:

That is absolutely what we believe in at Nokia, in general.

Anssi Vanjoki, answering question, 'how do MeeGo and Symbian fit together?':

This is a development and evolution that has been going on for a number of years and I see that 2010 is a culmination point of making it clear for everyone what is the software strategy that Nokia has been working on and now it is absolutely clear. So if I first speak about MeeGo / Maemo and then connect Symbian to it. In 2004 when we introduced the first Internet tablet I said, at that time when that was introduced, it would take us five iterations of the software of the platform that will manifest themselves in product and then we have the next generation computer platform after the personal computer (PC). And we have taken four steps, one step is missing. Today we announced the guts of the step, which that it is not only Maemo, but actually it is [also] Moblin, with all the deep level abstraction work that Intel and their community have been doing, with the usability layers of Maemo put together making MeeGo, which really has the potential to be beyond PC. When these real time 24/7 on, always with you, kind of computers, will completely replace these fellows.

And the uniting thing then to Symbian is Qt and common Web Runtime as the unifying layer for 85% of application and service development. Of you course then deeper down, you know, if you want to integrate very close to the Silicon something like Digital Networking Living Alliance (DNLA) to home electronics etc. you also have that possibility for MeeGo. So it really stretches itself beyond anything which has been available before. Then for Symbian, you have first Symbian^3, Sybian^4 making common structure underneath and a very solid promise for developers in particular. Again, Qt and common Web Runtime as the unifying thing between the two.

And then, what is most important in all of this, is that these are [software] assets. Where the original development was done by Nokia, but moving forward it is not the one company, but truly open source. And when I say truly open source, we are really hands off. MeeGo is in the Linux Foundation, Symbian is its own Foundation. We are of course a contributor to both of these, but it is not something we control. It is just controlled by the nature of open source that the best contribution wins. And that is common for both. So we have moved the whole software making model into a completely different environment for both of them. We have unifying elements in Qt and common Web Runtime and thirdly, we have created in MeeGo something that is actually stretching beyond the Smartphone to something which is going to be the true next generation of computers.