Nokia take on Symbian governance, Symbian Foundation to retain only licensing

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In a conference call this afternoon, Nokia and the Symbian Foundation outlined some major changes in how the Symbian operating system will be managed, going forwards. The Symbian Foundation will still handle licensing, trademark and patent issues, among other tasks, but all governance of the open source Symbian codebase will be taken up by Nokia. It was remarked that the 'foundation' model made perfect sense when there were five companies depending on the OS, but that it made less sense now, in late 2010.

A new 'transition' phase was spoken of, up until March 2011, for these changes to be fully implemented, with comment that permanent manpower at the Symbian Foundation would be minimal after April 2011. Currently the Foundation has around 100 employees.

It's worth remembering that these changes are structural in nature and are independent from any development of the Symbian code itself, most of which is already undertaken by Nokia programmers.

Tim Holbrow and the Symbian Foundation

Tim Holbrow and the Symbian Foundation

From the Symbian Foundation press release:

AMSTERDAM, SYMBIAN EXCHANGE & EXPOSITION (SEE), NOVEMBER 8, 2010 – Following a strategy review, the board of the Symbian Foundation has today decided to transition the role of the non-profit organisation. The foundation will become a legal entity responsible for licensing software and other intellectual property, such as the Symbian trademark. Nokia has committed to make the future development of the Symbian platform available to the ecosystem via an alternative direct and open model.

“The founding board members took a bold strategic step in setting up the foundation, which was absolutely the right decision at the time,” says Tim Holbrow, executive director, Symbian Foundation. “There has since been a seismic change in the mobile market but also more generally in the economy, which has led to a change in focus for some of our funding board members. The result of this is that the current governance structure for the Symbian platform – the foundation - is no longer appropriate.

...“Nokia remains committed to Symbian as the most used smartphone platform around the world,” said Jo Harlow, senior vice president, Smartphones, Nokia. “The Nokia N8 generated the highest online pre-orders we’ve ever experienced and we have a family of Symbian^3 smartphones including the Nokia N8, Nokia C7, and Nokia C6-01 which are available now, as well as the Nokia E7 which is expected to ship before the end of 2010. Nokia expects to sell more than 50 million Symbian^3 smartphones.”

The Symbian Foundation leadership team will work together with Nokia to ensure that the reduction in operations of the foundation will bring as little disruption to the ecosystem as possible. Further details of this process will be shared at a later date.


Nokia also issued their own press release, adding:

"The future of Symbian as a platform does not depend on the existence of the foundation," said Jo Harlow, Senior Vice President, Smartphones, Nokia. "The changes announced by the foundation have no impact on Nokia's Symbian device roadmaps or shipping commitments. The platform powers hundreds of millions of smartphones - including our own - and we expect to deliver ongoing support and innovation benefitting the Symbian ecosystem in the future."

Nokia's recent decision to focus on Qt as its sole application development framework is expected to bring greater efficiency and speed of evolution to the Symbian platform. This approach is aimed at ensuring compatibility for apps with future Symbian platform versions, and enables more frequent updates and upgrades for Nokia smartphones. To take advantage of this ever-growing opportunity, developers can find the tools and support they need through Forum Nokia, and global distribution to Nokia's broad base of smartphones through Ovi Store.


SEE1010 Unchanged by news

Today’s announcement doesn't affect the Symbian Exchange and Exposition (SEE 2010), which will start tomorrow in Amsterdam. SEE 2010 will bring together attendees from over 55 countries to "engage, exchange and explore opportunities offered by the Symbian platform".

Nokia has spoken of a new 'open model' for Symbian's source code - exactly what this means is hopefully something that Rafe can get to the bottom of on the show floor tomorrow and Wednesday.

In addition, it would be interesting to know how much of these changes gained momentum when Stephen Elop took over as Nokia CEO on 21th September - at the very least there seems to be a new energy behind a lot that Nokia's done in the last month or two.

The AAS team, 8th Nov 2010