Published: 26 October, 2010
Speculation about the future of the Symbian Foundation will not die down, after two weeks of bad news. Sony Ericsson and Samsung have backed away from the newly open sourced OS; the Foundation's chief Lee Williams has resigned; and Nokia, though insisting on its support, has put the cross-OS framework, Qt, at the heart of its apps strategy rather than Symbian itself. Now the open source Foundation could be wound up entirely, reports The Register, with CFO Tim Holbrow looking to lay off most of the staff and close the organization by the end of the financial year in April 2011.
This would be logical, given that the bid to establish Symbian as a fully multivendor platform, by open sourcing it, has largely failed. The Japanese handset makers, notably Fujitsu, are the only other companies of note supporting the new release, Symbian^3, and they are not too concerned about having an arm's-length body to work with - unlike fiercer Nokia rivals, they would probably be willing to work directly with the Finnish giant, which supports the bulk of the OS's development and marketing anyway.
Nokia has already targeted its internal Symbian teams as one source of job cuts, as it plans to cut its workforce by a further 1,800. So it could welcome the chance to manage the OS without the added expense of a separate foundation. Although it has expressed long term support for Symbian, which has a major market share lead, it has also given it equal billing in its strategy with the newer platform, MeeGo - with both unified by the Qt framework. This suggests that Symbian will mainly be targeted at conventional handsets and the midrange, while the most cutting edge devices - and the bulk of the R&D - will go to MeeGo.
The end of the Foundation could have benefits for Symbian too, giving Nokia the kind of unified control that Apple, RIM and Microsoft have, with the ability to update the OS quickly and respond to market changes.