The Facebook Phone, if it had existed, should have considered Symbian OS

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Sometimes journalists put two and 'x' together to make four, and when they're right, careers are made. This weekend, TechCrunch have tried to make a similar jump and announced that they reckon that "Facebook is Secretly Building A Phone," a claim that Facebook have denied (reported at Mashable and others). With a broader stroke of a brush, I hope the Symbian Foundation is paying attention, because Symbian OS in a short production run of handsets would have made a lot of sense.

It's a smart headline and article by Michael Arrington, which also naturally gets the traffic, but it's also got me thinking about an area that the Symbian Foundation should look at, now the major business transition is finished and Symbian^3 is almost out the door and the plans for ^4 and ^5 are happily on track. And that's pushing their mobile OS out to the wider world, to people who are looking to do projects like this.

If you're looking to build a short run handset, with a tiger team, then the Symbian Foundation better make sure that they are at least part of the discussion. If [and that's a big if - Ed] Facebook have been wordsmithing their denial and there is a phone project (and the hires/staffers allegedly working on it), Lee Williams and the Symbian Foundation probably missed the boat on this one, but it's a nice little nudge that they should have something in place.

The number of factories in the Far East that will build pretty much any tech you ask them is legion... assuming you have a dump truck of money and don't mind the factory next door turning out an almost perfect copy for the local market. Having had some experience of this, their biggest issue is that of the Operating System. Yes they can add on a plain vanilla Linux, or possibly Android (minus all the nice bits from Google).

Symbian should be working to be the de facto OS of choice for these manufacturers. If you believe (as I do) that, right now, it's not a profit margin game but a volume game for Symbian OS, then this should be a no-brainer. You want a fancy smartphone, designed to spec, running a modern OS? Symbian OS is a good choice.


Oh and you want a software layer that integrates deeply into the contacts system on the phone and then to whatever online web service you work for? Well here's a list a mile long of development houses and contractors we recommend. They'll be able to knock up a dedicated application that can run instead of the regular UI to give you all of that.

In fact, it's already possible to get a good idea of what a "social" phone on your Symbian device would look like. It's called Gravity, and even now it has access to your Facebook "river of news" along with a bundle of other social networks.

It obviously depends how far along the project they are, but Symbian OS, a strong manufacturer in the Far East, and a six figure sum to some of the major Symbian developers and you've got your social phone right there. There shouldn't be a need to start from scratch for any new phone project.

S60 5th Edition on Facebook   S60 5th Edition on Facebook   S60 5th Edition on Facebook

Would it surprise me if a future Facebook portable device does turn out to be real and it has an Android core and a Facebook UI? No. But I would think that it would be a shame, because they've been blinded by the Valley in missing the best OS and opportunity.

Perhaps the Symbian Foundation should just hose down a programmer or two with coffee and make an example of a Facebook sandboxed smartphone as a sample of what can be done with the OS?

-- Ewan Spence, Sept 2010.