Friday, October 23, 2009

Symbian Microkernel released as Open Source

| Brett D. Arion |
It was well over a year ago now that news of the Symbian operating system--found on approximately half of global smartphones--going open source broke. The news was interpreted as particularly important to Nokia's forward-looking Symbian strategy, but after all this time, an open source version of Symbian's platform is still only in beta testing.

Today, though, as EETimes notes, Symbian has released its platform microkernel, and software development kit (SDK), 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. They also note that the microkernel is responsible for most key functions in the operating system. What puzzles me, though, are the many posts and news stories that I'm seeing that seem to agree with the Symbian Foundation's claim that it is nine months ahead of schedule with its shift to open source.

Ahead of schedule after more than a year? Has anyone alerted the Symbian Foundation and Nokia that there is an absolute, competitive maelstrom going on in the smartphone arena? Android will soon come out in a full version 2.0 and has major momentum. Meanwhile, Nokia is bleeding money and taking an old-fashioned butt-kicking from the iPhone in the smartphone market. Nokia's North American sales are down more than 31 percent over last year.

It's about time that the Symbian platform showed some actual signs of going open source in earnest. If it does, it will only be good for market share, but I'm really not sure that this latest release qualifies as "ahead of schedule" in this mobile technology market.

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