So what does the year ahead hold for the Symbian community? As I look into my crystal ball I realise that it is really rather hazy. There's lot of fluffy white clouds and not a whole lot else to see. Oh dear - I think that this might make this article rather difficult to write. I guess it'll have to be in the best traditions of such articles - guesswork and dodgy intuition. Having got some predictions going I consulted the #mobitopia brigade who made some excellent suggestions (credits in the text).
1. Communicator Successor - this one is easy - name - possibly 9310. It's going to happen sometime this year. My guess would be at 3GSM in February. It'll be based on Series 90, but will be a clamshell type device (compared to the pad-ish like 7700). It'll feature Bluetooth, GPRS and EDGE and WiFi. This will make it the first Symbian phone to feature WiFi, and will undoubtedly be a big seller for business users. It might become available rather quicker than many Nokia devices since it's probably been ready to go for awhile (or maybe not - its possible a successor was ready with Series 80 on board and Nokia decided to switch it over to Series 90 and add WiFi).
2. A good year for UIQ. Some people might say UIQ looks a bit wobbly, certainly it has been overshadowed by its mass market cousin Series 60, but 2004 will be a good year for UIQ. Not only will we see several devices make it to market early on in the year (Benq P90, Motorola A925, A.N. Other), but there's likely to be quite a few more announced. Look to see 2 UIQ devices from Sony Ericsson - P1000 (with mega pixel camera and WiFi) and either a lower end or media focused model. Far East manufacturers will continue to license UIQ, and it is in Asia that UIQ will do very well. UIQ has the potential to become Asia's Series 60 (mainly due to input issues). We will also see the first high screen density phones with a UIQ interface - that's to say standard UIQ resolution, but with physical screen size being considerably smaller (rumours of screens of just a couple of inches in height abound). In this way UIQ phones will get smaller. In 2004 it times to say goodbye to the 'is that a UIQ device in your pocket or are you...' jokes.
3. Lots of Series 60 devices. At least 5 (up to 8) Nokia Series 60 devices. Specifically a CDMA Series 60 device with SD support (via Russ); N-Gage 2 (on the shelves for next Christmas), low end Series 60 device (but with Developer Platform 2; aka 3650 mark 3), media focused Series 60 device (focused like the 7700). All available this year. Probably 6600 successor and other announced but not available. From other companies... obviously Sendo X and Siemens SX1 available in large numbers (and both will be popular). Both companies will announce new / updated phones during the year sporting Series 60 version 2. Both have said they are working on lines of Series 60 phones, but whether that translates to multiple devices this year is more open to speculation. Panasonic will announce their first Series 60 device (possibly a flip phone). Sanyo will finally get round to telling us more about the redesigned D700 and announce their next one too. We might even see another Series 60 licensee at 3GSM (it'll be an Asian manufacturer). This means anything up to 15 Series 60 devices announced this year.
4. Series 90 has drool factor. Series 90 will have a high drool quotient this year thanks to both the 7700 and 9310, but by the end of the year there may be a 3rd Series 90 device joining these two as Nokia hots up the competition for Microsoft and Palm in the powerful PDA arena (ironic given it is a declining niche). Whatever happens Series 90 is going to get a lot of attention from Geeks (the P800 all over again), and the main stream media may actually pay attention too.
5. N-Gage success and N-Gage mark 2. The N-Gage won't be a run away success, but it won't be a surprise if it steadily gains momentum and fans. Despite the critics people will discover its more than just a gaming device and the fact that its a Series 60 / Symbian device makes it a powerful little beastie. That together with prices around $150 / £100 will guarantee it becomes the most widespread and biggest selling Series 60 device. Nokia may announce the successor for the N-Gage at E3 (although my money would be on later in the year). Aside from the obvious upgrade to Series 60 version 2, we'll see the a hot swappable MMC card slot possibly with a second card slot for a data / MP3 MMC. I'd like to think it would be SD compatible too but I think that's unlikely. Screen colours will get a boost along with battery life (I hope). Aside from that there may not be much more. N-Gage 2 will be what N-Gage should have been the first time round if they had asked AAS and Mobitopia to test it for them.
6. Symbian bits. Symbian itself will remain hidden in the background in its usual vampire-esque way, but despite Microsoft and others hiring Buffy and other spin-slayers it will sail through the year with the general public and phone owner being just as ignorant of it as ever. Symbian 8.0x (x being some random letter) will emerge at Exposium this year. We'll see lots more strategic / platinum / metal partnerships that half of us will not understand and the other half will stroke their beard and say 'key move that you see...'. Oh and there will be a few more licensees too.
7. Bits and pieces. Several other Symbian phones (FOMA, 3G etc.). An updated developer site from Symbian (please, please do this). Bluetooth keyboards. Operators with the wrong ideas about locking phones. Lower GPRS data prices in Europe (to match those smug Americans). EDGE gaining ground. 3G might go somewhere if they can find any money. MMS taking off (dependent on lower prices). Most people realising bluejacking isn't big and clever (and that it is not going to redefine our social networks / give us new ways to communicate etc. etc.). OPL gains ground (OPL on UIQ, a stable 1.0 version for Series 60 - via Ewan).
This will be the year of WiFi in phones, of mega pixel camera phones outside Japan, and the rise of mobile media. 6-12 Series 60 devices, 5-8 UIQ devices, 2-3 Series 90 devices, and 1 or 2 others. It's going to be a good year for Symbian fans because this is the year it gets big.
So roll on 2004. And this time next year we can all laugh at just how wrong I was...