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Symbian Microkernel Finally Goes Open Source 97

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-things-to-those-who-wait dept.
ruphus13 writes "Symbian announced over a year ago that they were going to Open Source their code, and the industry has been patiently waiting for that to happen. Well, it finally has. According to news on Wednesday, 'Symbian has released its platform microkernel and software development kit as open source under the Eclipse Public License. The Symbian Foundation claims that it is moving quickly toward an open source model, which is questionable, but the release of the EKA2 kernel is a signal that Symbian still means business about adopting an open source model. Accenture, ARM, Nokia and Texas Instruments contributed software to the microkernel, Symbian officials said.'"
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Symbian Microkernel Finally Goes Open Source

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  • Maemo (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tsa (15680) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @02:21AM (#29854613) Homepage

    But why would people want to develop software for Symbian now that there is Maemo? Maemo is much more of an adventure because it's new.

  • Symbian (Score:5, Interesting)

    by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Saturday October 24, 2009 @02:50AM (#29854721)

    Ever look at a system and think to yourself, "every time the developers had a choice in designing this thing, they chose the wrong option"? I can think of a couple [php.net]. Symbian is definitely in that class. It has:

    • Drive letters. Enough said.
    • Backslashes as directory separators
    • Pervasive DRM, with code signing and a pay-us-to-access-more-OS-features capability model
    • A bizarre and perplexing C++ API based on manual exception management, with too many kinds of string class to count
    • "Active objects [wikipedia.org]"
    • Non-POSIX filesystem semantics
    • A microkernel architecture for devices least able to afford the overhead
    • Very strange application deployment consisting of several disparate directories with magical names

    All in all, the sooner Symbian dies, the better off I am. I might have been slightly kinder if they hadn't tried to prevent my running my own code on my own machine. No, I'm never getting another Symbian device.

  • by Shag (3737) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @03:00AM (#29854761) Homepage

    WebOS, Android and iPhone OS look to be fixin' to eat Symbian's lunch... will open-sourcing things make a difference?

  • Reality check (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sznupi (719324) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @03:48AM (#29854875) Homepage

    - Symbian chips on slighly more than half of smartphones (which is another way of saying "it ships more devices than all other players combined")
    - vast majority of phones sold all over the world aren't smartphones, but feature phones (for example with Nokia S30 or S40)
    - Nokia seems to be pushing Symbian into the place of S40 (I guess Maemo wil be at the top)

    Symbian isn't going anywhere. It will grow bigtime. Out of OSes you list only Android, IMHO, has similar potential (it also seems to be coming to cheap devices). They won't even really have to compete with each other, with such huge market for the taking.

  • Re:Maemo (QT) (Score:2, Interesting)

    by GNious (953874) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @03:51AM (#29854879)

    If I understand correctly, developing for Maemo or Symbian doesn't exclude developing for the other platform - QT should exist on both platforms soon, allowing you to target both fairly trivially. /G

  • by thaig (415462) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @03:59AM (#29854891) Homepage

    I am biased because I worked for Symbian and now Nokia. What I say is entirely my personal opinion.

    There's a lot to be dissatisfied with in Symbian but the kernel is good. It works on a lot of different hardware and is very economical with power. It's also extremely reliable. For all that it is a microkernel-based OS, it needs very little in the way of hardware It isn't like Linux or Darwin because they were originally made under the assumption of all sorts of nice things like having a power socket all the time. They catch up but they aren't there yet.

    It's also written in pretty simple C++ without the warts that the user-side APIs. Since the user-side stuff is being supplanted by QT and the STL I think that there is hope there. It's also getting some fairly serious SMP support which is well suited to the mobile world (having more less powerful CPUs is good for power consumption if you can switch them on and off).

    I work on another thing that's about to be open sourced and I must be a good boy and wait for the SEE next week (what used to be the Smartphone show) before talking about it. But a lot is being done and by people who are just as unhappy or more so about the status quo.

    It will be interesting to see how other OSes fare when they try to tackle the problems associated with scale and numbers of different models.

    BTW, I use Linux on my desktop and I am a big fan of it.

  • Re:Symbian (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zullnero (833754) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @05:49AM (#29855131) Homepage
    I kinda agree. From an outside perspective, Symbian is conceptually a solid concept...but once you hunker down and try to do something for it, you find yourself pulling your hair out non-stop. I also have to say, at the time when the Symbian guys came up with them, Active Objects were a pretty cool idea. No one else was doing stuff like that for mobile devices, and if it had been done less insanely, it really would have been like buffed up widgets.

    Yeah, it has a goofy API. I totally agree. But I can work with it, and get stuff done...that's fine. I don't mind the microkernel...if you write your code reasonably efficiently, you can deal with that. Memory management, while necessary to make that code efficient, is clumsy and annoying. I didn't really run into the "pay for more access" nonsense, though I certainly hated that sort of stuff about Brew, too. But once you've been stuck jumping over all those hurdles, you never want to deal with it again. A smart company, designing a platform, should put third party developers above everything. Making your platform easy to develop for should always take precedence over anything else, no matter how much temptation it is to try and nickel and dime developers in order to farm cash flow out of them. The more hurdles you put up, the less chance your OS will compete in the application market, and that generates the demand that makes the carriers interested in putting your OS on their phones.

    I can think of a number of OS's offhand that greatly outlived their lifetime expectations simply because they're easy to develop for and the toolchain is flexible (and free). I have Symbian development on my resume...even though it's obviously been 5 years since I did it seriously, I still get headhunters contacting me non-stop from all over the place simply because, and no offense if someone reading this does like Symbian development, it's a big time headache to deal with.

    Making it open source isn't going to save it. There are too many far better mobile options out there already. webOS, Android, and Moblin are already built on open source, reasonably standardized platforms. There are more on the way. No one is going to want to fight with Symbian weirdness and 1990's style C++ when they could be doing AJAX on webOS or Java on Android.

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