Tim Holbrow replaces Lee Williams as head of Symbian Foundation

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The Symbian Foundation has announced that Lee Williams has stepped down, for personal reasons, from his role of Executive Director of the Symbian Foundation. He is to be replaced by Tim Holbrow with immediate effect. Holbrow is a member of the Symbian Leadership Team and was previously responsible for Operations (covering Finance, IT, Infrastructure and property services) at the Foundation.

Here is a statement from Steve Warner, head of HR at Symbian:

"The Symbian Foundation is today announcing that Lee M. Williams has stepped down from his position as Executive Director for personal reasons. We thank Lee for his work over the past two years and wish him all the best in his future ventures.

The Board of Directors has appointed Tim Holbrow, formerly the Symbian Foundation's CFO, to the position of Executive Director with immediate effect. We congratulate Tim and welcome him to his new role."

Recent developments

Quite apart from the personal reasons quoted prominently, the change of leadership at the Symbian Foundation should also be seen in the context of recent developments.

The failure of the Symbian Foundation to attract or retain manufacturers outside of Nokia, Fujitsu and Sharp means that the original vision of the Symbian Foundation has not been fulfilled. It is easy to dismiss the move to open source as part of this failure, but ultimately it is perhaps fairer to see this as a failure of governance and leadership rather than software. In competitive terms the Symbian Foundation was always going to be hampered by the time table moving towards Symbian^4 (the realistic rejuvenation point), but this was a known threat and, perhaps, could have been more actively addressed.

The Symbian Foundation has recently faced the news of both Samsung and Sony Ericsson saying they have no plans for future Symbian handsets. While the day to day impact on Symbian Foundation activities is relatively small, the political impact is more significant. There are inevitably questions about whether the Symbian Foundation can continue in its current form. 

In the near future Nokia and Fujitsu, the two remaining manufacturer board members who are / will be responsible for funding, and other members of the Symbian will need to decide how to move forward. 

There are two likely possibilities. Firstly the Symbian Foundation could close, with Nokia taking the Symbian platform back in house in its entirety. There would be a number of legal issues to overcome. Even with this course of action it is likely there will be an external advisory or guidance council of some kind, made up of Nokia and other external stakeholders.

This option would be seen as a way for Nokia to speed up the development of the platform, but whether this would have any real impact is unclear, since the major portion of Symbian development is already done by Nokia engineers. It would, however, simplified the current management structure and operations.

Secondly the current Symbian Foundation could continue, but in a modified form. Going forward there are both funding and governance issues that will need to be addressed.

In both cases it is very likely that the platform will remain open source.