Tag Archives | Symbian

Android Global Share Quadruples, Passes Symbian

The standard meme when it came to smartphones was that while Android and iOS powered the lion’s share of devices sold here in the US, Nokia’s Symbian was the worldwide king. That logic is now outdated according to data from research firm Gartner.

For the first time, Android has surpassed Symbian in terms of units sold in the first quarter of 2010, making up 36 percent of the market. That is a four-fold increase from the same quarter last year, when it only made up nine percent of all devices sold. Much of Android’s gain came at the expense of Symbian, which fell from 44.2 percent a year ago to 27.4 percent.

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Symbian 3 Preview

Speaking of phone operating systems getting major makeovers for Mobile World Congress, here’s Nokia’s demo of Symbian 3, due in phones later this year. I want Symbian to flourish–back in the 1990s, I was a fanatical user of the Psion palmtops whose OS evolved into Symbian, which sported features I still miss. This video, however, suggests that the new version may mostly be about catching up with other phone OSes rather than racing ahead of them….

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Like Symbian, Only Good

When I pick up a phone based on Nokia’s Symbian operating system, I get a little teary. (I exaggerate, but only a smidge.) Symbian is the modern-day descendant of Psion’s wonderful EPOC PDA OS from the 1990s, but it doesn’t show a decade’s worth of improvement. Actually, it’s backslid in some ways: It’s not as usable as EPOC was, and current Nokia Symbian devices sure don’t feel as snappy as my trusty Psion Series 5 did.

But here’s reason for at least guarded optimism: Engadget has grabbed some images from a Nokia presentation that previews a 2010 version of Symbian. It has an all-new user interface. And it looks…pretty good. The presentation only shows still images, so there’s only so much you can tell about the future of Symbian from it. But consider my appetite whetted.

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Could Web Apps Help Save Nokia?

Nokia logoCertain pundits have opined that Nokia may be doomed, because its Symbian operating system and Ovi Store application store provide a far poorer user experience than Apple’s iPhone. I’m not one of the doom-and-gloomers. Nokia is betting that Web applications will catch on in the long run, and it could be right.

The long history of Nokia’s Symbian OS and the diversity of devices that Nokia sells have left it in catch-up mode, Web applications provide the company with a second chance to get ahead of the curve. Steve Jobs may have been right when he initially said that developers should write Web apps for the iPhone –he may just have been premature.

Nokia has laid the groundwork for a new crop of Web applications that will run on over two dozen of its Symbian S60 devices with a set of plugins called Nokia Web Runtime Extensions (WRT). It’s a pragmatic strategy, and probably the company’s only solution. Apple, by contrast, has had the luxury of dealing with one mobile platform.

The WRT plug-ins allow application developers to create standards-based Web applications with commonly-used development tools without requiring any specialized knowledge of Nokia technologies.

Nokia’s ultimate goal is to make it possible for end users to create their own widgets, said Craig Cumberland, director of Web tools and technologies at Nokia. The company is partnering with content providers to make that happen. In the meantime, it is betting that its flexibility will lure application makers.

WRT was built using the open source WebKit browser layout engine, which Apple and Google use as the engine for their Web browsers. WRT joins Qt, an open source GUI toolkit, as the two  core technology platforms that Nokia will use across all of its devices. The company has also localized WRT into eight languages, including Chinese (tradition and simplified), English, German, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Spanish. “The international market is our bread and butter,” said Cumberland.

It’s becoming a meme, but those technologies give developers greater openness–and since these apps run on the Web in the browser, there’s no App Store-like approval process to complicate matters. Web applications also cut down on application delivery time, and offer faster return on investment for developers, Cumberland added.

That means (at least in theory) there should be a variety of Web applications for end users to pick from within a short period of time. The applications will also blur the lines between the Web and device itself, which many iPhone applications already do.

To give the appearance of native functionality, WRT can integrate with device data and core services like address books. More advanced devices support more advanced applications that can access the touchscreen functionality of the 5800 XpresMmusic and N97, in addition to Nokia’s “home screen” user interface.

Nokia has laid out a clear vision, but its execution relies upon the ability of carrier to deliver fast, reliable data services. The applications will also be simple widgets, not deep, rich pieces of software–at least at first. Web applications won’t level the playing field overnight, but the long-term strategy makes sense to me.


Is Nokia Toast?

Nokia N97Gizmodo’s Matt Buchanan has posted a review of Nokia’s iPhone-like N97, with the provocative headline “Nokia N97 Review: Nokia is Doomed.” At first blush, it sounds like he can’t really mean that he thinks Nokia could be headed for extinction. Comic exaggeration, right? But the more I thought about it, the more I came to the conclusion that the headline’s a perfectly reasonable one. I’m not predicting Nokia’s death myself, but neither do I take it as a given that the company has a long future in the smartphone business.

Matt’s conclusion on the N97 is that it’s a respectable piece of hardware but that its Symbian S60 Fifth Edition operating system and Ovi Store application repository don’t have what it takes to compete with their counterparts on the iPhone. Judging from the time I’ve spent with an N97, he’s right. Cell phones in 2009 are really software/service combos that happen to have hardware wrapped around them, but Nokia is still racing to catch with the modern era–as represented not only by the iPhone but also Google’s Android and Palm’s Pre phone and WebOS software.

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Full-Fledged Flash on Smartphones. Most of Them, Anyhow…

Mobile World CongressIt’s tempting to crack a joke about “Skip Intro” coming soon to a smartphone near you. But seriously, this is good news: Here at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Adobe is announcing that it plans to bring Flash Player to phones running the Windows Mobile, Android, and Symbian Series 60 operating systems, as well as Palm’s upcoming Web OS, in 2010. This is supposed to be full-fledged Flash, not the slimmed-down “Flash Lite” technology that’s been on phoned for years and which has failed to make any impact at all.

Say what you will about Flash, it’s unquestionably a significant component of today’s “real Web,” and I’ve spent enough time being frustrated by its absence that I’m anxious to see how it translates onto a tiny screen. Even though the one significant platform that isn’t part of Adobe’s announcement today is the one I use most often: Apple’s iPhone. [UPDATE: Er, one of two–BlackBerry isn’t part of the announcement either.] Adobe still says it’s working on Flash for the iPhone, but that it’s really up to Apple to decide whether we get it. Which it is, as long as the App Store is the only viable iPhone distribution channel…