Nokia confirms that Symbian phones will just fade away
Written by Harry Fairhead   
Friday, 25 March 2011

An open letter to Nokia developers makes it clear that Symbian is just going to fade away - the only question is how long will it take?


Nokia's VP Purnima Kochikar has sent an open letter to its developer community to let everyone know what is going on in an attempt to settle their nerves.

It begins:

"Dear Nokia Developer,

Much has been said in the last few weeks about Nokia’s announced strategy.


First, let’s recap what it is we announced; the three main areas of our strategy:

  1. Plans for a broad strategic partnership with Microsoft on Windows Phone
  2. Connecting the Next Billion
  3. Future disruptive technologies

What about Symbian? What about Qt?"

The questions about Symbian and Qt are indeed the ones that most programmers want answering, but they are already of the opinion that Symbian must be dead in the water and that Qt needs a home with another company if it is to survive. At this point there is no mention of the other big issue - MeeGo.

The letter then goes on to say that there are many Symbian devices in the pipeline and a lot of existing Symbian users. Most programmers view this as just the inertia left in the system as the motor driving the flywheel is shut off.

"Over the past weeks we have been evaluating our Symbian roadmap and now feel confident we will have a strong portfolio of new products during our transition period – i.e. 2011 and 2012. "



The letter then goes on to say how powerful these devices are and how updates will continue to flow:

"The first major update will arrive in summer, delivering a new home screen, new flexible widgets, new icons, a faster browser, new Navbar and a fresh look and feel to Ovi Store and Ovi Maps, including integration of social media services in Ovi Maps."

Of course having a promise of Symbian until 2012 doesn't really promise very much more than could have been guessed at - it takes time to turn a super tanker.  When confronting the real question of how long will Symbian be supported the answer is refreshingly honest  and bleak. Notice how Window Phone drives the argument:

"...The truth is, it is very difficult to provide a single answer.  We hope to bring devices based on Windows Phone to market as quickly as possible, but Windows Phone will not have all language and all localization capabilities from day one.

In many markets, including markets where Symbian is currently the lead smartphone platform with significant market share such as China, India, Russia and Turkey, we will continue to make our Symbian portfolio as competitive as possible while we work with Microsoft to introduce Windows Phone." 

This also is in line with the opinion of many comenattors that there will be niche markets for niche phones in the future but for as for a world wide market - the only rational one for an app this is much more in doubt. The bottom line is:

"... That is why we cannot give you the date when Symbian will no longer be supported."

The letter then goes on to point out that even if it wanted to Nokia couldn't just pull the plug on Symbian devices as it has legal responsibilities to maintain the devices that customers have bought. However: 

"Our intention is that when users come to the end of the natural lifecycle of their Symbian device they will make the change to a Nokia Windows Phone device and so it would not be in our interests to undermine their Nokia smartphone experience."

Yes this all makes sense, but the days of the Symbian OS are clearly numbered but there might be some lean to pick off the bones in the meantime.

Turning to Qt:

Qt, the development platform for Symbian and future MeeGo technology remains critically important and Nokia is committed to investment in Qt as the best toolset for those platforms and we are focusing on future developments in part by our plan to divest the commercial licensing business, used mainly by developers of embedded and desktop applications beyond the mobile market.

There is a rumour that Nokia may be considering creating a tablet machine and perhaps using MeeGo and Qt - but it is all very vague.

"... We are continuing to explore Qt for use in other strategic investment areas as well.
So in short, there are some very exciting things happening in Symbian and Qt, lots of new devices and platform improvements and we believe consumers will be downloading great developer apps from these devices."

The letter then makes a case for Nokia supporting Symbian developers with free code signing and new APIs but the crux of the residual appeal of Symbian is:

"...Consumers around the world are hungry for apps on Nokia devices."

This much is indisputable but it is clear that there is no long term future in developing for Symbian so my guess is that consumers will sadly go hungry until they switch to another phone. Oddly at the end of the letter I was of the opinion that there was more future in MeeGo than Symbian - but I am an optimist.

It is now clear that Symbian will just be allowed to fade away at its own pace.

You can read the full text of the letter.

Related articles:

Nokia goes Windows Phone 7

Nokia sells commercial branch of Qt to Digia

Nokia Launchpad members to get free phones


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Last Updated ( Friday, 25 March 2011 )