Nokia Emancipates Itself from Symbian, Adopts MeeGo Instead

by Matt Klassen on June 28, 2010

In the movie Croupier, one of my favorite British films of all time, the main character, a writer turned casino dealer, lives by a simple motto, “Hold on tightly, let go lightly.” The point being, don’t worry about the things you can’t control, when life demands changes, make them and don’t look back. Combine this saying with the popular mobile marketing phrase, “When the love is gone, move on,” and one might have some insight into Nokia’s thinking behind its announcement that it has shelved its ubiquitous operating system Symbian in favour of a Linux-based project, MeeGo, it began earlier this year.

So despite the millions of R&D that Nokia has poured into Symbian over the past few years, and even with the recent release of Symbian 3 on its flagship N8 phone, with the market demanding a change and clearly Nokia clearly not satisfied with Symbian, the world’s most popular cellphone manufacturer simply opted to put Symbian out to pasture.

But the question is, with the suspect timing of this move, will it be enough to solve Nokia’s market woes?

While I have no doubt that the decision to let go of Symbian was a difficult one–one clearly made to enable the Finnish cellphone company to be able to produce powerful and intuitive smartphones that rival the likes of Motorola’s Droid, the HTC EVO, and Apple’s iPhone 4–I have to question the timing of the move. The fact that the change follows so closely on the heels of the N8 release, I wonder if this move is one of desperation, made rashly and hastily to cash in the current popularity of Linux, or if this is a shrewd business maneuver designed to restore the company to its former glory?

It’s undeniable that Nokia produces some of the most popular phones in the world, as everyone from Bedouin nomads to European business moguls can be found using a Nokia device. The longstanding problem for Nokia, however, has been an issue of technological dominance, meaning that while the Finnish company knows how to produce devices that appeal to the masses, it has yet to figure out how to produce the powerful devices sought by the technological elite.

Further, in recent years with the exponential growth of the Android OS and the consistent market dominance of the iPhone and its powerful iOS, Nokia’s Symbian has seen a steady slide down the charts, an indication that while Nokia’s phones may be cheap and widely available, they’re really not all that attractive to mobile users.

In an effort to combat this consistent downturn in Symbian’s popularity, earlier this year Nokia combined its own Linux-based OS project Maemo with Intel’s own Moblin OS, the result of which was MeeGo. While Nokia has stated that it will retain Symbian’s services in the company’s lesser devices, the N8 will officially be the last powerful N-series smartphone to sport the fading operating system.

Thought it remains unclear whether N8 users are now cursed to be the last suckers using an antiquated OS on what they thought would be a powerful phone, the change, in my mind, was clearly made to capitalize on the success of open Linux-based operating systems is now undeniable, as Android and others are flying up the market charts.

The question of me, however, becomes, why now? Why release the N8 with a technology that Nokia knew would be obsolete within a little less than two months? An issue that will certainly be unfortunate for N8 users should Nokia fail to offer a MeeGo OS upgrade. But will this change be enough to help Nokia recover its fading market dominance? I suppose that question will remain unanswered till we actually see a MeeGo based device, as the first sporting the new OS will not hit shelves till later this year.   

Goodbye Symbian! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca >. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com > by: RSS >, Twitter >, Identi.ca >, or Friendfeed >

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