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Symbian Foundation gets new high priest

Who's gonna keep the Kool Aid cool?

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The Symbian Foundation, marshal of the open source world in which the dominant mobile platform finds itself, has appointed Lee Williams as Executive Director - though guru might be a better title for someone expected to lead a religion.

Lee comes from Nokia - current owners of the Symbian OS - and will remain there as head of S60 development until the end of 2008. The appointment is no great surprise: with S60 being folded into the OS, along with UIQ and MOAP, it makes sense for a Nokia hand to take control - at least for Nokia.

Not that Nokia appointed Lee. He was nominated by the board-of-10 - the founding members of the foundation - after what was apparently a rigorous selection procedure. We're not told what the criteria were, but it's hard to see how anyone could compete with a candidate who not only already works at Nokia, but also manages such a significant part of the Symbian platform.

Lee's development days are over though. The foundation won't be creating software, just guiding development of the platform - sorting out who's going to run the development of which bits and adjudicating implementation issues. Lee describes the foundation as a marshal keeping all the untapped developers in order.

And developers there are - the Symbian show was well attended despite the lack of shiny new toys or applications. Everyone came along in the hope of finding out where the platform was heading and how long it was going to take getting there.

What they got was visions, sound bites, and an invitation to take the blue pill and join the cult of Symbian - as Motorola's John Ellis put it: "We are entering a beautiful circle of life, and the developer is at the centre of that circle." Quite.

John was equally poetic regarding revenue streams. "Texting and voice of today are slowly evaporating and diminishing in our rear view mirror," he said, a mixed metaphor if ever we heard one - though perhaps a dash of confusion is appropriate when discussing a platform undergoing such a change.

Companies selling Symbian software are making money and not just by getting their applications bundled into handsets at manufacture. Motricity and Handango happily report that third-party applications are selling, and there were certainly enough vendors pushing their apps at the show.

But with Steve Jobs presiding over the iPhone sect, BlackBerry being freely compared to the most addictive of narcotics, and Android building itself up as an alternative religion, Symbian badly needs a more faith-based approach. As Lee himself put it at the end of his announcement speech: "I'd encourage all of you to sign up to the foundation, and join us on this incredible journey." Yes, you can change your life today - drink this! ®

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