JAX London 2014: A retrospective
Nokia Announce They Will 'Transition' Symbian Foundation

The Symbian Foundation Is No More

Jessica Thornsby
Nokia-Announce-They-Will-Transition-Symbian-Foundation

The Symbian Foundation to become legal entity focused on software licensing.

The Symbian Foundation have announced they will “transition the role of the non-profit organisation” and become a legal entity responsible for licensing software and additional intellectual property. The current governance structure for the Symbian Foundation, will be replaced by a group of non-executive directors, who will oversee the organisation’s new licensing function.

Nokia open sourced Symbian in 2008, and created the Symbian Foundation with AT&T, LG Electronics, Samsung, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments and Vodafone. Tim Holbrow, executive director of the Symbian Foundation, stands by the initial decision: “the founding board members took a bold strategic step in setting up the foundation, which was absolutely the right decision at the time.” At the time, the move was positively received, with CSS Insight analyst Geoff Blaber praising the new structure as fitting in with “the current trend toward open-source software platforms.”

Tim Holbrow blames changes in the mobile market and the general economy, for Symbian’s change of focus. However, there is no shortage of theories on why the Symbian Foundation failed. Matt Asay accredited Symbian’s failure to ignite the open source arena, on the fact that Nokia appeared to be using open sourcing Symbian, as a quick-fix. “Open source…..is a great way to spark or accelerate momentum. It’s a terrible way to reverse a product’s decline,” he said, pointing to a lack of a solid developer community, prior to Symbian’s open sourcing. Open sourcing a project that does not have a flourishing community can be counter-productive, as the open nature of the mailing lists and JIRAs, can draw attention to a lack of developer activity.

Tim Holbrow praises the Symbian Foundation’s recent delivery of the entire Symbian codebase under an open source license, calling it “the biggest open source project ever.” However, Symbian did not release this source code until 2010; two years after the open sourcing was announced. This meant they failed to capitalise on the interest generated by the announcement. “Had Symbian gone open source when still strong with developers, and had the Foundation done a better job of engaging developers, it might have had a chance,” Matt Asay summarised.

Nokia pledge to make the Symbian platform available via an “alternative direct and open model.”

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