Android vs. Symbian, Open Source Melee


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]

Rob Jackson
I'm an Android and Tech lover, but first and foremost I consider myself a creative thinker and entrepreneurial spirit with a passion for ideas of all sizes. I'm a sports lover who cheers for the Orange (College), Ravens (NFL), (Orioles), and Yankees (long story). I live in Baltimore and wear it on my sleeve, with an Under Armour logo. I also love traveling... where do you want to go?

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  1. What gives with the “Mormons of mobile” comment? If you are referring to people who practice polygamy, it has been banned for over 100 years by the Mormon church and those who practice it are ex-communicated. Show some respect and class to your readers and to the 13 million Mormons in the world.

  2. It was a joke and meant to be taken as a joke.

    Nevertheless, I can see how this might be offensive and I’ve changed it to read, “mobile polygamists”. Thanks for pointing this out… the last thing I want to do is alienate people for no reason.

  3. Well, for one it seems that more open source can only be a good thing (well there’s fragmentation I guess). If the systems are compatible enough then hopefully programs written for one will be readily cross-compilable for the other (like Linux and Free/NetBSD). Then again, if they’re not…

  4. Symbian will take the number 1 position when it finally releases it open source OS platform. symbian has years of experience in developing mobile OS as well as providing excellent support it OS. if google’s Android want to compete in mobile OS market then first the need to go back to basics and learn how to provide technical support for their new Android OS to global customers.

  5. This can only be good for Android – give the Android guys some more motivation to do a good job – and do it fast. And if they really get to be so much better than Android so that Android can’t catch up (which most propably won’t be the case) then, well, maybe the’re just good enough to have won.

  6. So this Mormon phone will have a Magic Underwear Phone Sock….

  7. well the android platform is developing at a faster rate but i would like to remind that nokia ‘s Symbian is a much more tougher competitor in the market …..
    with already dozens of apps available in the market ..it has already created the storm which java enabled phones could never escape…
    well android is a good step yet i feel symbian is better because it provides stability to the user and gives an enhanced experience,clear rendering and work by the beta labs is on…..
    so get ready to feel the symbian power via the n series devices which are much better than the android phones……….

  8. Ok, people I hear all this talk about Symbian is better how? Let talk strictly objectively 1st. Android developed the first open source platform then every one else decide to bit the concept. 2nd. Since the platform launched it has been the most wanted OS to date why is this ill tell you. 3rd.Google helped developed the iphone concept that brought about its own OS with a little help from you know who. 4th Why did Google do this its simple…”Simple” Creativity with usability.If Symbian is so experienced in Mobile OS why are they so behind the power curve still today. Even-though Symbian those have advance concepts like beta lab it those not have the creative niche needed spawn use. 5th and last I sit here with the G1 and N97 I can definitely see why Symbian need to bring the world together to fight the Android OS. Point even-though it has advance spec. like video calling and radio transmitter it is not fun.

  9. I had worked on android, windows mobile, symbian and qualcomm( brew) platform symbian is only present because of nokia and continues for at least few years, and finally android with its improved sdk, multitouch and other supports will soon gonna Overtakesymbian, windows mobile and iPhone watch and see….

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