Not that Symbian users are a greedy lot, but the inclusion of a Nokia 9500 Communicator as the Pub Meet's grand prize proved a huge draw, with over 70 people attending the meet at the traditional venue of the Dover Castle in central London.
Of course, 70 people would be rather a squash in a function room only 7 metres square, so for most of the evening Symbian enthusiasts were spilling out into the main body of the pub, even out into the street a lot of the time (thank you to the rain for holding off). For the grand prize giving, many of us discovered the small beer 'garden' (read claustrophobic patio), with open windows giving us a pretty good view of events.
As it turned out, despite the presence of 9500 and 9300 devices to play with (thanks to Nokia), the prize itself was simply a voucher, production hardware being due off the boat from Nokia any day now. But our winner went away very happy and now spends his days sitting eagerly behind his letter box, waiting for his early Christmas present.
Last minute prizes were donated by Handango (three 50 Euro gift vouchers) and Symbian.Info (registrations for the "Try and Buy" service on the 6600), as well as mystery star prizes two and three from Allack and the BBC respectively. Along with three sets of the latest books from Symbian Press, copies of Opera, Symbian OS For Dummies, the UIQ mints, and various software registations, the mix of serious and very silly prizes allowed Ewan to keep the raffle moving along at a hilarious pace, keeping spirits high and making sure everyone had fun.
Before the raffle though, we had three talks. The first, from Rafe Blandford, brought everyone up to speed on the changes in All About Symbian over the last year, including the small matter that the site is bringing in one million visitors a month. He also announced plans for the next twelve months and the news that Ewan is now working full time for the site.
Next up were two talks, the first being from Justin Dyche from the BBC. He's been piloting a study in using Symbian OS phones to gather news for BBC News 24. Starting back with still shots from a 3650, they've moved up to using video clips sent over GPRS, and (just recently) using a live Video Call from a Motorola A925. Heady stuff, and more world firsts from the BBC. Hopefully Justin will come along to an interview for AAS so that you can all see what he's been up to.
David King from Nokia, though, had the devices everyone wanted to see. The Nokia 9500 and 9300's. After an extensive talk, highlighting all the major features of the Communicators ("but the 9300 is a Smartphone", screams the Nokia PR department...), Along with everything we thought we knew, he confirmed a few details (yes, it is true Series 40 on the outside, but it won't run any MIDP apps except on the inside), and talked a bit more about things like remotely locking the device with an SMS message and password, what's going to be in the retail packaging and the Easy Wi-Fi Hotspot locator service.
But, through the whole night, the most important thing of all was that people who'd previously only met in cyberspace were able to buy each other beer and generally become aquainted. Contacts were made all round, which was just as well because the size of the Expo the following day meant that finding one person in a crowd of thousands wasn't at all easy. The AAS team had a bit of a buzz on all evening, and after retiring to the hotel for a chat and a debrief, were astounded to realise that it was 1.30am by the time anyone thought to look at their watch.
Thanks to all who came to the meet and to all who tracked us down at the Expo on Tuesday or Wednesday. Thanks also go to everyone who donated prizes for the raffle on the night. A few companies (Handango and Symbian.Info) donated prizes on the night, which was nice, but if you give us a bit more notice next time, we can get you the links and 'thank you's you deserve!