Jun, 26 2008

As if the lingering Limo Foundation, sharing many of the same members as the Open Handset Alliance, wasn’t confusing enough…Today marks the birth of the Symbian Foundation.

On their new 1993ish looking website they talk about the mobile revolution, “Open software is the basic building block for delivering this future. With this in mind, industry leaders are coming together to establish Symbian Foundation, to bring to life a shared vision and to create the most proven, open and complete mobile software platform – available for free.”

The most proven, open and complete mobile software platform – available for free? Look here… the New Symbian Patriots are stealing lines right from the playbook of the Android Jets!

But look, some of the superstars are playing for both teams:

  • NTT Docomo
  • Samsung
  • Motorola
  • LG Electronics
  • T-Mobile
  • Texas Instruments
  • Broadcom
  • ST

Motorola, NTT DOCOMO and Samsung are founding members of the OHA, Limo and now the Symbian Foundation. These, ladies and gentlemen, are Mobile polygamists. Texas Instruments, LG Electronics, ST and Broadcom are members of all 3 organizations as well. The two largest American carriers have announced their allegiance to Open Source platforms: VZW to Limo and now AT&T to Symbian.

So what gives? We’re working on getting those answers. It’s fairly easy to predict what Google would say about this Symbian development… exactly what Eric Chu said when we interviewed him: “It’s always good to see companies working together to create technology to enable the entire ecosystem. From that perspective, we think any initiative that’s focusing on opening up the mobile ecosystem that’s a great thing.”

Lets take a step back for a minute.

Symbian Limitied, the partnership that develops the Symbian Operating System, was formed by Nokia, Motorola, Ericsson and Psion way back in 1998 to foster the convergence of mobile technologies. By the way, they make sure to mention this “long history” in their press release, which seems a partial attempt to undercut the youth of Android.

Nokia was already the majority owner of Symbian but today they made a move to purchase all remaining shares of Symbian Limited. Nokia then contributed the Symbian and S60 software to the Symbian foundation followed by Sony Ericsson and Motorola contributing UIQ and DOCOMO offering up MOAP(S).

This is of course, subject to approval, but the Symbian Foundation plans to “start operating” by the first half of 2009. As a warning, when rumors start flying that it will “start operating” in late 2nd quarter don’t start a tirade about how it is delayed, like folks did with Android… late 2nd quarter is still 1st half of 2009.

The official press release says, “The Foundation will make selected components available as open source at launch.” We’re not sure if “start operating” and “at launch” are equivalents, but we assume thats what they mean. Over the course of 2 years, they will work to establish, “the most complete mobile software offering available in Open Source.”

If that doesn’t put the bullseye right on Android’s head, I’m not sure what does. You really can’t get any more direct than that. But how can companies directly responsible for both Android, LiMo AND Symbian be working on 3 projects that all claim they will be the most complete open source mobile OS?

Two years is light years away in terms of the current mobile landscape. We’ll see a TON of innovation and progress between now and then, so this doesn’t provide an immediate threat to Android as a platform but as a concept? It may change the way potential partners and existing members think about Android.

Its true that this is nothing more than an announcement. There is no product yet. There are no terms of exactly what Open Source Symbian will mean or provide.

Despite the timeframe, Symbian poses a threat to Android’s domination. In their first 8 years, the Symbian OS shipped on 100 Million devices. It only took 1.5 years for Symbian to ship their next 100 million by… 2008. Now here they are, moving open source, flying in the face of Android and claiming they will sell an additional 800 million smartphones by the end of 2010. More devices currently ship with Symbian than any other platform.

There is no reason for phandroids to be “worried” – Android is moving at a rapid clip and already has the support of the industry and developers with handsets on the way. But, the folks at Google should take notice and make sure that “2nd half of 2008” comes to fruition for Android. I WOULD say the OHA should take notice, but half of them are the ones who formed the Symbian Foundation in the first place.

Android, LiMo or Symbian… which Open Source system will dominate?

[Sources: Symbian Foundation, Symbian.com, Sony Ericsson]