Year in Review 2010: Symbian platform oversight shifts to Nokia

Here's the good news for Symbian: The open-source mobile OS remains the leading smartphone platform worldwide, capturing 36.6 percent of the international market in Q3 on the strength of unit sales in excess of 29 million, up from 18 million a year ago. Now the bad news: Just 12 months ago, Symbian controlled 44.6 percent of the smartphone segment, its lead continuing to erode in the face of mounting competition from iOS and Android. With consumer and developer interest in sharp decline, both Sony Ericsson and Samsung Electronics stated in October they will longer manufacture Symbian-based devices, while Nokia (NYSE:NOK) said it will embrace the Qt cross-platform development environment as its sole application creation framework; moving forward, developers who build apps in Qt will be able to deploy their software across devices running both the Symbian and MeeGo operating systems. 

With 2010 entering the homestretch, reports surfaced that the Symbian Foundation, the non-profit initiative charged with overseeing Symbian's evolution, would be forced to wind down. Then in November, the Artemis Joint Technology Initiative--a public-private partnership bringing together the European Commission, member states and industrial association Artemisia--said it will invest €22 million ($30.8 million U.S.) into the foundation, identifying the Symbian platform as a technology vital to the growth of Euro-centric mobile software development. The Artemis JTI will fund the launch of the Symberose consortium; short for "Symbian--the Embedded Operating System for Europe," the initiative will be led by the Symbian Foundation and brings together 24 organizations from eight European countries, spanning mobile device manufacturers, hardware and service integration service providers, consumer electronics companies, mobile network operators, application developers, universities and research institutions.

From there, Nokia announced plans to assume ongoing development of Symbian beginning in March 2011, with the Symbian Foundation transitioning to a legal entity responsible for licensing software and other intellectual property. Nokia pledges to make Symbian available to the mobile ecosystem "via an alternative direct and open model," according to a statement. The Symbian Foundation will reduce operations and staff numbers in the weeks ahead--the organization adds that by April 2011, it will be governed by a group of non-executive directors overseeing its licensing efforts. Further details on the transition will be announced in the months to come--and no doubt Symbian's attempts to regain its footing and attract developers will remain headline fodder for many more months to follow.