The end of the symbian era

Well. The last week has been interesting, with the leaked e-mail and Friday’s Stephen Elop’s announcement on Nokia’s partnership with Microsoft and the replacement of Symbian with Windows Phone as Nokia’s primary platform of choice.

My understanding of these occurrences is that Symbian has no more than 1.5 to 2 years before it’s retirement and now they announce a GHz Symbian phone will be released???? Confused.

At least I got some Qt questions answered in “What is the future of Qt?

When I first heard the Symbian news I was one of the many frustrated long time Nokia fans feeling betrayed as I had seen the improvement in the new Symbian^3 devices and heard the improvements in development thanks to Qt. I thought Nokia were starting to rebound from the likes of the N97 (say no more).

My mind then moved to the “Trojan Horse” theory before seeing other’s references to this also. This was further flamed when it was announced that Stephen Elop had appointed another ex-Microsoft employee into the upper echelons of Nokia. I can only hope this is not the case. He has been confronted about this in a recent interview and unsurprisingly denied any underhandedness.

Now that I’ve had some time to think I can see that the result of this change could be positive. The Windows Phone interface a very pretty thing, but I know, for me at least, it WILL feel wrong at first at least, navigating a Nokia phone without the familiarity which has kept me with Nokia for so many years.

I DO look forward to integrated Microsoft X-box and Microsoft Office applications along with possible integration with the Windows Live  Online catalogue of services. It will be nice to have true integration with Outlook/Mail e-mail, calendar and contacts.

When I look at Nokia’s current application and services offering I am left with a number of thoughts:

  1. Will OVI still exist or be absorbed into the Microsoft services?
  2. Will OVI Maps be re-coded in .Net?
  3. Will OVI Calendar be killed as a result of the Windows Live Calendar just as it is achieving maturity?
  4. Will OVI Mail be retired as a result of Windows Live mail?
  5. Will OVI Contacts be shut-down as a result of MSN and Windows Live IM?

Another point to add at this point is that it is not that long since Nokia announced it’s partnership with Yahoo providing them with access to OVI Maps whilst using Yahoo’s email and IM capability. I assume, based on the Friday’s announcement, that the Yahoo deal was limited to Symbian. If not, how will thas affect the OVI web services?

Some areas that are more obvious in my opinion are that Quick Office and Mobile Documents will be hit hard by this joint venture as Microsoft have these capabilities in their portfolio already.

I am interested to see what will happen to OVI Music with Zune already existing in the Microsoft product range as Microsoft will be bringing the software to the partnership. I will say that the PC based Zune player has always exceeded the capabilities of the OVI Player although iTunes remains the easiest to use. I do however remember the issue for Zune users when Microsoft updated the device firmware and broke many many devices denying this was possible. These Zunes were nigh on unusable for c.6 months before Microsoft outwardly admitted the error was in the FW and it was corrected. I hope these issue will be solved quicker in the new Partnership as these things do happen.

I also hope that if Zune is taken on as the partnership’s Media player of choice that development and promotion pace is improved as Zune has existed for many years without having made it out of the Americas.

Another interesting conundrum is whilst talk is focused around the new partnership brining a third eco-system to the smartphone market, adding to Apple’s and Android’s offerings, rumours have been unearthed that Sony Ericcson is adding a Playstation phone to the market which could prove to be an interesting competitor.

Must admit at this point that I still do not see the iPhone as a smart phone as it’s hardware is still substandard when compared with the competition being supported by the polished software and unbelievably unquestioning fan-base. This could be a good point for the partnership as Microsoft are undeniable proficient at Operating System and software development as, having owned an imported Zune for a number of years now this is a better product than Apple’s iPod, so add Nokia’s longstanding mobile manufacturing build and technological capabilities the sky is somewhat limitless if this are done right.

Another worry I had initially was that there are other Windows Phone hardware developers out there already and Nokia would just become one of the many, although the competition make one Windows phone and numerous android devices. This worry has been somewhat quashed by the statement that Nokia’s closer partnership means that Nokia will be permitted to bespoke the platform when others are not. I am interested to see how this pans out as currently all apps are to run on all platforms providing a very regimented yet familiar interface between devices and manufacturers.

As we await the first Windows Phone I am left wondering how these announcements will impact sales of the final few Symbian devices as third party offerings decrease as developers loose interest in working on an OS with limited life. Stephen Elop promised that firmware and software development would continue on Symbian fulfulling the promise of updates from Symbian^3 devices Symbian^4 functionality, although it will NOT be the primary OS anymore.

Also, as a long time tester at the Nokia Beta Labs I worry about the future for this excellent user centric service showing Nokia’s long time interest in involving end users in sculpting their applications. I pray this does not die with Symbian.

To conclude if done right this could provide an amazing new mobile offering from the partnership setting the new benchmark for mobile devices. If done badly this could be the end of Nokia as we know it. Sounds dramatic, but in my opinion it is this black and white. If this does not work, all Nokia has is Meego and I’m not sure that is enough. All we can do is wait and see.

I’m sure there are points that I have missed, but I just needed to post something so may add more opinion as time goes on.


6 Responses to “The end of the symbian era”

  1. February 13, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    Will OVI Mail be retired as a result of Windows Live mail?

    I haven’t realized many of this things, but maybe you didn’t remember the Yahoo Mail partnership… what would happen with that?

    • February 13, 2011 at 9:54 pm

      You have a good point with the Yahoo agreement. Ment to include reference to that. Will add something in the next few days. This is why I added the last sentence. Knew there’d be one or too important points.

  2. February 13, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    a great article Brett. i think you got most of it down. What is trobelsome is if it dosent work nokia is left with nothing and microsoft will have things that nokia have been gotten right lately: maps, ovi store, and music. Plus technology patents nokia might not otherwise have liscensed away. also troubeling is to what extent nokia will be able to customize the OS, will it be more like a pc vendor who can add stuff of choice…. Which brings me to the next point which might be at the core of this deal: the future os is not device bound, it lives on dekstops, tablets, netbooks, and smart phones, microsoft needs this marked it dosent help beeing the number one pc os makes if people are moving to other devices… However im not sure if pegging nokias future all in to the windows mobile was all justified… It could have been done different….

    • February 13, 2011 at 9:57 pm

      Thanks. Needed to my feelings off my chest. It’s good to post. One of the statements made by Nokia and Microsoft made this point as they both referenced the partnership as a “gamble”.

  3. February 13, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    I am actually frustrated with Symbian’s direction (and this is the main reason I am inactive in Beta Labs). Well, with WP, I’m going to pay more attention to Beta Labs now.

    MeeGo is still very strong and stable, with support from Intel, they are about to release MeeGo devices at MWC 2011.

    Now I am looking at the ‘keitai denwa’ market in Tokyo (the place where N97 is born, say no more), I have to say Windows can be a new player to challenge Android market here. Probably upgrading Ovi Maps here in Japan will be a good start for them.

  4. 6 CLTSchwarz
    February 14, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    After reading the press letter I felt terrible for the first half hour… but then I decided to watch the press release anyway. And I think that Steven and Steve have made a good move in bringing both of their strengths together. They both have systems that have “nearly” made it but have been missing the other half – Nokia doesn’t have much support from advertisers (Maybe that is a North America and Australia thing). Microsoft has a great software and gaming community and the tools and developers to pump out software. Microsoft has a great phone OS (I heard from a developer point of view it is awesome) but not the skills to put out great phones. So many other levels too – mapping, presence with search, many more too.

    What do you think about the fact that the “Point and Find” replacement now will have access to bing advertisers and Microsoft’s large business base? Small point but I think point and find, and location based services like this have value but have never taken off due to lack of business support. In Australia at-least. I told my wife about what Point and Find could do and she got all excited about it, especially the bar-code bit with price comparisons 🙂

    I think Steven Elop see’s the change in OS as an opportunity to “clean house” and change the cultural attitude of Nokia in terms of final product software which seems to be a point that they have a problem with… Just saying, the amount of bugs they release seems to be skyrocketing. And software that leaves you thinking – Did I push that button?

    One last point, this is the big one. I reckon that Nokia will release the Windows Phone with some new hardware that they have been developing and the change will be so great that it will make most people forget about the Symbian to Windows Phone change – whether they think of it +vely or -vely. More than a fantastic camera, HDMI etc. It will be something completely different that other manufacturers will not be able to release for some time. But then again maybe not… 🙂

    With up to 2 more years of product release, and owners having handsets for 2 more years then support for Symbian “Should” continue. However I was VERY disappointed with the attitude of ParkVu with Music with me, and I think it was a bit shortsighted:

    And I hope that Beta-Labs does continue with windows phone applications.

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