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Symbian, the Biggest Mobile OS No One Talks About 423

blackbearnh writes "The iPhone vs. Android wars are in full swing, but no one talks about the mobile operating system that most of the world uses: Symbian. Part of the reason, perhaps, is that the Symbian developer infrastructure is so different from the Wild West approach that Apple and Google take. Over at O'Reilly Answers, Paul Beusterien, who is the Head of Developer Tools for the Symbian Foundation, talks about why Symbian gets ignored as a platform despite the huge number of handsets it runs on. Quoting: 'Another dimension is the type of developer community. [Historically, Symbian's type of developers] were working for consulting houses or working at phone operator places or specifically doing consulting jobs for enterprise customers who wanted mobile apps. So there's a set of consulting companies around the world that have specialized in creating apps for Symbian devices. It's a different kind of dynamic than where iPhone has really been successful at attracting just the hobbyist, or the one- or two-person company, or the person who just wants to go onto the web and start developing.'"
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Symbian, the Biggest Mobile OS No One Talks About

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  • Not to mention (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @02:37PM (#32801854) Journal

    The competitors are GOOGLE and APPLE, which have done more than just created a phone operating system, so they get a lot of buzz.

    The fact that these two names come up more than twice Daily might have something to do with why I'd be interested in their phone business.

  • Hmmm... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by PmanAce ( 1679902 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @02:38PM (#32801868) Homepage
    Who is going to want to develop applications for tiny arse screens for example? That market is a goner.
  • It isn't ignored (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0xdeadbeef ( 28836 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @02:39PM (#32801880) Homepage Journal

    It is actively despised.

  • Re:Hmmm... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dnaumov ( 453672 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @02:45PM (#32801952)
    So the phone OS with the biggest worldwide marketshare (and by quite a margin) is a "goner"? Because you said so? Noone talks and writes to the media about developing for Symbian simply because it isn't sexy.
  • Re:Hmmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 05, 2010 @02:56PM (#32802074)

    It is not a goner as an OS for mobile phones. It is a goner as a major platform for 3rd party apps and games on mobile smart phones. People who are interested in downloading and running lots of apps and games, probably own a droid, a nexus one or an iPhone. People who just use their phones as... hmmmm... phones, and don't give a shit about apps, are probably the biggest chunk of Symbian's market share.

  • by 24-bit Voxel ( 672674 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @03:01PM (#32802114) Journal

    I've got a Nokia N95, which is a decent enough phone I guess, but the symbian OS is easily the 2nd clumsiest one I have ever used (first being windows mobile). It's like no one there cares at all about usability, almost like a Dilbert strip. My sound recorder is in office tools, for whatever reason, and it's like 7 clicks deep. I can't customize my appearance in terms of where buttons go or which do or don't show up very well, so whatever background image I am using is obscured by loads of useless crap I'll never need. Like the phone, hate the OS.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 05, 2010 @03:12PM (#32802212)

    I used to work for Symbian a few years back. The company has comprehensively screwed every big decision it has taken. In no particular order, these were:

    - Treating the app developer as some annoyance to be fobbed off whenever possible. No idea what's it's like now, but back in the day, to develop an app for Symbian you have to splash out on a compiler which retailed at over $2k. And if god forbid you wanted to actually debug code running on your device (rather than the not particularly good emulator), well, then you need a HW debugger box which ran to another $2k

    - Completely and comprehensively fragmenting the eco-system whenever the slightest opportunity to do so arose. Hence Symbian never really existed as a platform per se - it was all an obscure and vast ecosytem of devices each with its own configuration - hence the prolliferation of Series 40, 60, 70, UIQ etc etc.

    - As an operating system, Symbian was passable, although it was written way before it's time. Hence it assumed the C++ compiler didn't know about exception handling and did everyting possible to conserve every last resource of the device at the expense of making developing for it an activity which took quite a long time to acquire a taste for.

    - Quite a few bits of Symbian got taken over by the detritus that got ejected from Ericsson and Lucent when they collapsed. Hence you had all these big company people introducing processes used to launch space shuttles into space - exactly what you don't need if you're trying to innovate in one of the most rapidly changing industries.

    Or at least that's my 2c.

  • by Abcd1234 ( 188840 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @03:13PM (#32802218) Homepage

    If you're a developer like me who is uncomfortable using a low level language...

    *sigh* Kids these days. This statement makes me a sad panda...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 05, 2010 @03:13PM (#32802222)

    iPhone/iOS is supported by a single manufacturer; and the one that behaves like Nazi SS guards at that...

  • by TheKidWho ( 705796 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @03:18PM (#32802268)

    Yeah, that's why the iPhone has been selling so well in Europe and Japan.

    No the real reason is that Nokia is a phone company. No one in tech news gives 2 shits about phone companies, they care about computer companies. Apple and Google, well they are computing companies, it's why they have actually made successful smartphone OSes and Nokia is lagging behind.

  • So was BREW (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NicknamesAreStupid ( 1040118 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @03:40PM (#32802424)
    and Java ME. Just try to get an app certified, you may begin to appreciate iPhone or Android. BTW, phone companies want 70%, not 30%.
  • by hyartep ( 1694754 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @04:13PM (#32802762)

    people in europe (non tech savvy) may not know "symbian" - they simply buy nokia. it's far more bigger buzzword.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 05, 2010 @04:39PM (#32802992)

    The phone OS with the biggest worldwide marketshare is a goner, because the phone is a goner. Few people want a phone; they want a personal computer that fits in their pocket and happens to be able to do "phone stuff."

    Saying Symbian is the King of Phones, while possibly true, is like saying my rawhide whip business is the King of Buggy Whips. I could have 100% marketshare but you'd be a damn fool to invest in me, unless I tell you about how I'm getting into the chewy doggie-treat business.

    The answer to "who makes the most typewriters?" isn't Wang or IBM. The correct and most accurate and enlightened answer is "who cares?"

  • by Abcd1234 ( 188840 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @05:32PM (#32803348) Homepage

    That *is* a solvable problem. In fact, I'd argue it's to your detriment that you haven't solved it already. Curiosity and self-drive are important in a software developer.

    I mean, don't get me wrong, I don't think it's some horrible, fundamental detriment, and I'm definitely not trying to troll or flame you, here. It's just weird that, in all these years, you haven't picked up C/C++ just, you know, for the fun of it.

  • by dropadrop ( 1057046 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @05:58PM (#32803536)

    As a smart phone, yes, it's laughable how few apps are available for it

    Apple claim something like 20k applications. Think about that for a second, and then... What exactly could they all possibly be?

    So you've got what? 500 different fart applications? Or what? No really. How many different word processors (for example) can survive in a market? MS Word. Open Office, which is free, and then?

    Clearly if you want your fart application in a specific shade of brown rather than green, Apple have got you covered. For the slightly less discerning among us, maybe fewer/better apps isn't so bad.

    Over 200000 apps actually. The app store works pretty well, it seems fairly easy to find whatever you are looking for. Sure there are a lot of options, just pick the one that has a lot of good ratings. I don't know where this fart app comment comes from since I keep hearing it, but somehow it always takes the credibility away from any Apple appstore critic. There are plenty of good apps, and they cost surprisingly little (the most I payed for an app was about around 8€ (don't remember exactly) and it felt like a lot (Grand Theft Auto). The game is very nice, and works smoothly on my phone.

  • by aristotle-dude ( 626586 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @05:59PM (#32803550)
    Why don't you go search instead of spreading FUD with hyperbole? There many categories of apps and the Apple App store has one of the largest collection of modern games.
  • by an unsound mind ( 1419599 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @06:33PM (#32803846)

    As someone from elsewhere in Europe... this is not the case everywhere in Europe.

  • by LaRainette ( 1739938 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @06:52PM (#32804054)
    Typical american self centered point of view.
  • by gyrogeerloose ( 849181 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @09:56PM (#32805456) Journal

    Typical american self centered point of view.

    Slashdot is a U.S. centric [] Web site. If that bothers you, use another site.

  • by krischik ( 781389 ) <krischik@users.s ... t ['efo' in gap]> on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @03:38AM (#32807626) Homepage Journal

    Only by the time MeGoo is ready the marked will be carved up between iOS, Android and maybe RIM and only some breadcrumbs will be left for other OS offerings.

Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them. -- Bill Vaughn