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Nokia to overhaul Symbian UI, invest in Maemo

Handset giant Nokia is planning an overhaul of its Symbian user interface in 2010, and will also bring out a flagship device powered by the Maemo Linux-based operating system the same year.

James Middleton

December 3, 2009

3 Min Read
Nokia to overhaul Symbian UI, invest in Maemo
The WAC has announced the availability of the WAC 1.0 specification

Handset giant Nokia is planning an overhaul of its Symbian user interface in 2010, and will also bring out a flagship device powered by the Maemo Linux-based operating system the same year.

Speaking at the Nokia capital markets day on Wednesday, Nokia CEO, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, put paid to rumours that the world’s biggest handset maker is preparing to shift its focus off Symbian.

The Nokia chief said the company is working to improve the user experience on its Symbian devices and is re-engineering its UI in preparation to deliver a major product before mid-year 2010, and another major product milestone before the end of the year.

“In 2010, we will drive user experience improvements, and the progress we make will take the Symbian user interface to a new level. As an operating system, Symbian has reach and flexibility like no other platform, and we have measures in place to push smartphones down to new price points globally, while growing margins,” said Kallasvuo.

But the company is investing in its Linux-based Maemo platform, and will deliver its first Maemo 6-powered device in the second half of 2010.

Over the next year, Nokia said it will “significantly” increase the proportion of touchscreen and QWERTY devices in its smartphone portfolio but will also continue to focus on localised offerings for emerging markets.

Developers will also get a look in, with Nokia set to provide third party developers with better tools to create applications and content for the Ovi ecosystem. Earlier this week the company unveiled the latest version of Qt, its cross platform application and user interface framework, providing support for more platforms including Symbian, Windows 7, Mac OS 10.6 and Maemo 6.

When telecoms.com recently spoke to John Forsyth, of the leadership team, Symbian Foundation, he was enthusiastic about getting the Qt onto Symbian. “Application development has not been great for Symbian, there’s no sense in hiding this, and that’s due to a mixture of tools that have been good but not best in class and an environment that’s brilliant for making phones, but too complex for making applications,” he said.

“So in the roadmap we have a couple of big thrusts: Getting Qt into the platform – there are already 300,000 developers that love Qt, and it’s a fun productive environment; and there’s also the web runtime, so you will be able to program just in JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and write an application that uses all the underlying native services,” Forsyth added.

Kallasvuo also said the firm is looking to scale up its services business by expanding geographically and in partnership with more operators, and is targeting 300 million active users for its services by the end of 2011.

According to Bengt Nordstrom, co-founder and CEO of wireless consultancy Northstream, it will take Nokia some time to recast itself as an internet and services provider, “However 2010 is the “make or break” year where it needs to show that with its new apps and services, it’s genuinely closing the gap with Apple and the iPhone and also Google’s growing mobile presence.”

Nokia expects industry mobile device volumes to be up approximately 10 per cent in 2010, compared to 2009 and said its own mobile device market share is expected to be flat.

In OS terms, Nordstrom believes that Symbian is becoming a liability for Nokia. “There is much more traction for Android and the iPhone in developer communities around the world than there is for Symbian currently,” he said, agreeing with the prevailing view among analysts that Nokia needs to adopt a multiplatform strategy instead.

About the Author(s)

James Middleton

James Middleton is managing editor of telecoms.com | Follow him @telecomsjames

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