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Symbian founder on mobile past, present and future

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So where's the mass market for software developers?

There were always two sides to this: Palm with their talk of a 'Palm economy' which is a lot of claptrap, and the PC side and the consumer side on the other. For raw OS software there isn't a consumer market. It will become a Java market: one where you can download and run applications everywhere.

The data download market is for songs and ring tones and bits of software that are part of a service. But it's service orientated, not application oriented.

There are no signature apps that aren't already in the phone. Everything is built into your phone already. I always thought that was a trivial argument. But the real market for Symbian developers is as providers of software to the phones; the telephony apps, T9, and so on.

I'm really surprised you don't have any Symbian apps on your Symbian phone. What advice would you have to, say, Lee Epting, who's got the job of evangelizing Nokia developers?

My point is that there is not a mass consumer market for C++ applications, with the emphasis on consumer and C++. My theory is that any really successful C++ application will become a signature application and will end up being built into the phone. Opera is a perfect example.

So there will be a large market for C++ applications but the market will be to ODMs [Original Device Manufacturers] and handset manufacturers, and possibly, in time, network operators. There will be a large consumer market for downloadable applications but it will be for smaller and lightweight applications and they will be in Java. They must be cost effective to download and they will have increasingly shorter shelf lives. It will be Java because a large target market must exist, and for mobile phones this will only be for Java MIDP phones. Lee still needs to do whatever she's doing because the market needs the powerful C++ signature applications, but she can spend less time trying to target the applications at a consumer market.

The best thing she can do is to try and promote a cross network operator platform that allows developers of Java programs to offer their software across all networks so as to increase the size of the market. This platform must allow the phone easy access to the apps available for download and must bill the customer. The platform must allow any developer to make their program available on the platform, set its price and receive an agreed share of the revenue billed by the network operator. This will create the right whole product offering to allow the market for downloadable software to let the market take off.

So is there a market for this abstract thing, mobile 'data' ?

The appetite for data cannot be underestimated - people are just looking at the wrong type. It's just not going to be download or video data - it's going to be transaction data. They're going to need every bit of data they can get their hands on - voice traffic and transaction traffic. It's hard to see any other means by which you can run transactions.

OFDM and other new technologies will just be subsumed into the network, just like ADSL was subsumed. In two or three years data will be economic and by 2009 it will be in the midrange.

It's down that alignment of the value chain we always talked about. Everything has to be in place.

When you've got real end-to-end computing, you need to know the IP address of each client, which is why IP6, Mobile IP are so important. You've got to have secure transaction handling too. 3G does everything here - you can back-add it all to 2.5G, but it's all part of the system in 3GPP.

We also need the final bit from the phone to the merchant. We already have ticketing or tills that take Bluetooth, but the industry will need to campaign to get people happy putting it in their phones; and the mechanics of this is happening.

Until then people will avoid it. You already don't carry money or a ticket with you. I have a wireless card for my car and I don't carry keys: if only I could get rid of my wallet! Then my passport. This has a very high consumer appeal, but you've got to make it easy to access.

Everyone can count - it's easier than texting.

Won't there by some resistance to putting all this in a phone when your phone can be nicked so easily?

But it's not your whole bank account you're carrying around. You just put in £10 a day. Risk is not a factor - you'll download money into the phone over the phone. It'll be like a float. People will be carrying less money with them than they do now. I think there'll be no problem overcoming that prejudice.

Not even something like WorldMate, which gives me the weather and the exchanges rates?

That's a service.

Issuebits was set up to publish Java software, but there's no mass market for it. It may be 2007 or 2008 before Java software is sold on mobile phones, and you're never going to make a big living out of it.

Symbian is doing its job. The products that are being built are reliable and well positioned for next ranges of phones. It's way beyond the engineering of most PCs and routers: everything you've ever seen is crammed into one device, and it's got to be simple. Symbian has persuaded DoCoMo to buy in, it's got Nokia Series 60 and UIQ which are successful, and the licensees are very happy.

We moved away from doing user interfaces at Symbian, because it wasn't a product company. It's a technology company. It provides a service and really anchors the telephony handset market. It ensures that there are standards that are built up.

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