Symbian on the defensive


Symbian on the defensive

Google's intention to build an open platform for mobile phones has garnered both high praise and dismissive comments from various segments of the wireless industry. Even some of Google's 33 partners for the project are playing down its significance. But one company seems particularly defensive over Google's Android project: Symbian.

In an interview with the BBC, Symbian's VP of strategy John Forsyth said Google lacked experience. Making a "mobile OS is a very specialized form of rocket science," Forsyth said. "It's not search rocket science." Forsyth later went on to say that alliances like Google's Open Handset Alliance are formed every few months--"a bit like the common cold. It keeps coming round and then we go back to business."

Palm's reaction to Google's plans was decidedly more tempered: "Palm has always been committed to open platforms for developers. And Palm has the added differentiation of being able to tightly integrate the software platform with our hardware design, which we believe gives us an advantage in delivering a great user experience," the company wrote in a statement to Engadget. Palm doesn't even mention the initiative, directly or indirectly. A veritable shrug.

Apple's reaction was a bit more assertive than Palm's: "We have a great relationship with Google and this doesn't change anything...They are certainly an important partner for iPhone," said Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris.

Microsoft is the only major company besides Symbian (and its partner Nokia) to get defensive about Google's Android project: "It really sounds like they are getting a whole bunch of people together to build a phone and that's something we've been doing for five years," Redmond's Scott Horn, who is part of the Windows Mobile team, told Engadget. Microsoft, however, did not put out a press release touting shipments of its OS the day after Google made its announcement.

Symbian did. According to the release, Symbian shipped 20.4 million Symbian OS handsets in Q3 2007, a 56 percent jump year-on-year. Total Symbian OS handsets shipped now stands at 165 million.

Forsyth also told the BBC that "It's very clear what developers want--volume and a stable platform that doesn't keep breaking… [Google and the OHA] are talking about having a phone by the end of next year. It's not one that is going to ignite developers."

Google and the OHA will make the SDK for Android available for developers to download on Monday. We won't have to wait until the end of next year to see whether this project will "ignite developers" or turn out to be shrug-worthy vaporware. -Brian


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