Symbian Changes May Affect Developers - InformationWeek

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Software // Operating Systems
04:24 PM

Symbian Changes May Affect Developers

Future versions of Symbian will have major changes to the user interface and APIs which could lead to a binary break for some programs.

The Symbian operating system is going through some major changes, and future versions could mean serious differences for application developers, according to executives.

The OS is the most widely used in the world, but it has been getting pressure from the iPhone, Windows Mobile, Android, and others. Nokia purchased the remaining share of Symbian and spun it into a royalty-free version to better compete. The Symbian Foundation was created to achieve this goal, and it is a separate entity from Nokia.

David Wood, whose official title is "catalyst and futurist" for the Symbian Foundation, said the foundation plans to roll out a new version of the software roughly every six months. The fourth update, which will be known as Symbian^4, will have major user interface changes, and the S60 Avkon application programming interfaces will be phased out.

"There will be significant changes -- both incremental and revolutionary," Wood told TamsS60. "There will be a large break in binary compatibility with Symbian^4. Such a step is not taken lightly, but it seems to be the emerging view of the Symbian community that the large benefits of this break will outweigh the undeniable drawbacks."

Future versions of Symbian will be sticking with the Carbide programming languages, but Wood said the UI changes are needed to create the next generation of attractive apps. This could help Symbian get compelling programs in places like the Ovi Store, and this could draw attention away from Apple's App Store for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Wood said the move could cause some friction for developers in the future, but the foundation has recently launched the Symbian Horizon program to help content creators make, market, and distribute mobile apps.

Nokia's decision to create the Symbian Foundation and open up the OS should have major ramifications throughout the smartphone market. InformationWeek evaluated the impact of this move, and the report can be downloaded here (registration required).

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