Android will sink Symbian
It's the UI, stupid, analyst warns
Symbian needs to cut to the chase and sort out its user interface, the organisation has been warned.
The call comes from Gartner "distinguished" analyst Nick Jones who points out that while Symbian's still colossal market share is vanishing at an ever greater rate, the organisation behind the operating system still doesn't appear to have figured out why.
It's the UI, stupid, to coin a phrase.
That's Jones' argument, at any rate. Apple and Android deliver much better user experiences, and while Symbian 3 is a step in the right direction, phones equipped with Symbian 4 won't be out until well into 2011.
Apple is making a virtue out of touchscreen ease of use. Android is trying to do the same, and if it's slightly less good at this kind of thing than Apple is, at least it has many more manufacturers lined up to not only promote Android-branded handsets but also add alternative GUIs to it.
The Symbian Foundation, on the other hand, appears more obsessed with what's going on under the hood, says Jones.
He's right. Symbian the OS grew separately from the UI, a conscious plan to allow phone vendors to differentiate their devices at the user interface level but have a single, well-developed OS underneath. That made sense when the only serious rivals were basic proprietary OSes in feature phones and Windows Mobile - say no more; look how its clunky, old fashioned UI has sunk it - and allowed Symbian the OS to develop without worrying about then unnecessary things like visuals.
Now that approach has turned round to bite it on the rear end. As Symbian's roadmap shows - it talks about audio policies, cloud integration, better multitasking, multiple personalised home screens, HDMI and Wi-Fi - the Symbian Foundation is stuck thinking about what's going on behind the screen not on it.
But it's largely what's on the screen that, at the moment, is selling handsets, smartphones in particular.
Jones reckons that this inability to move beyond the methodology of the past will be Symbian's undoing, and likens the Symbian Foundation's tinkering to "re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic".
And if Apple doesn't sink it, Android certainly will. ®
Positives and Negatives.
Plus Points for Symbian.
+ Low power requirements. If you want your smart phone battery to be small and last for days OSi Android and Meego just won't cut it. Symbian can.
+ Navigation. More a Nokia advantage than a symbian one, but free down-loadable maps and navigation are a good hook especially with capped data plans. (You need to be connected to use google maps.)
+ Comes with Music. Again more a Nokia advantage, free to keep all you can download music deals. (Not well presented to the public, but could provide them with more 'stickiness')
Negatives for Symbian
- S60 UI is very dated. - Symbian ^4 is supposed to fix this (^3 was just the ground work).
- Hard to develop for. - The move to QT is supposed to fix this.
- Apps. - There are actually lots of them but finding them was not as easy as for other platforms . OVI is getting better here but still has a way to go.
- Developer Profit. - Again OVI (+QT) is supposed to fix this, plus that fact that Nokia take a smaller cut than Apple. Still needs to get moving while the user base is still much bigger than Apple and Android combined.
Basically the plans are fine but the execution and time are lacking. 2011 is the last chance, if Symbian and Meego fail Nokia probably have to fall back to being a volume handset maker for Android and say bye bye to their hopes of making money from the services business.
This is exactly what Symbian is doing (sorting out the UI).
His argument doesn't really hold up. Android's Interface is hardly a polished experience either; if he wanted to make a point about UIs then he should have only mentioned iOS, however iOS is limited to Apple devices and won't have the numbers to topple Symbian.
iOS won't sink anything
Because it only runs on Apple phones and Apple won't ever license it, so until everyone decides they want iPhones (which will never happen as they won't ever appeal to EVERYONE), there will always be a market for an OS for other manufacturers.
Of course what that is, and how many they'll sell, IS a valid question.
OS vs kernel approach is fair for microkernel-based systems like Symbian. For monolithic kernel like Linux it will not work as kernel provides also file system, networking, and other vital OS services. Android is only very thin layer above that provides application framework and even use Linux processes to implement tasks, so it is a mistake to call it OS. In this case Python, Java, Ruby interpreters are also OSs...
Operating Systems vs. Kernels
Most common definitions of the term "Operating System" refer to more than just the kernel. While Android and traditional Linux distributions share the same kernel, that's pretty much all they share. The application level interface is quite different, so it doesn't seem out of place to refer to them as different operating systems.