Why is it a turkey? It was a rough year for Symbian and its principal backer, Nokia (NYSE: NOK). Thanks in large part to Nokia's enormous international reach, Symbian is still the world's largest smartphone platform by market share and unit shipments. However, the platform has started to slip, especially against Google's Android platform. Nokia has taken steps to streamline its Symbian development, but the platform is under more pressure now than ever before.
The year started off on a relative high note. Symbian released Symbian^3, the latest version of the open source Symbian operating system. Symbian also touted its future plans with a video preview of Symbian^4.
In late April, Nokia unveiled its first smartphone running Symbian^3 software, the N8. The N8 sports a 3.5-inch OLED screen, a 12-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics and Xenon flash and support for HD video. Unfortunately for Nokia and Symbian, the device did not start shipping until the end of September.
Meanwhile, research firm Gartner reported in May that Symbian's share of the global smartphone market slipped from 48.8 percent in the year-earlier quarter to 44.3 percent.
In mid-September, Nokia went through a period of intense transition. CEO Olli-Pekka stepped down, to be replaced by Microsoft executive Stephen Elop. Days later, Anssi Vanjoki, a long-time executive and the head of the company's smartphone unit, announced his resignation just ahead of Nokia's announcement of three new Symbian^3 devices.
After some confusion, Nokia started shipping the N8, but Symbian received a major blow--both Sony Ericsson and Samsung abandoned future product support for the platform.
Then, on Nov. 8, Symbian's ownership structure received an overhaul. The Symbian Foundation announced that starting next spring it would no longer focus on platform development and would instead license software and other intellectual property. The move put development control back in the hands of Nokia.
Nokia, along with Sharp and Fujitsu, continues to back Symbian, and Nokia promised a slew of platform updates early next year. However, Symbian's position continues to erode: Gartner said in the third quarter that Symbian's global market share fell to 36.6 percent.