Feeds

A Sparc of hope for Symbian

Fujitsu has been here before

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

The Symbian Foundation is being wound down - but it may yet survive, at least in name.

In fact, there's an unlikely template for the Foundation. One of life's odd little ironies is that one of the architects of this template is Symbian's biggest supporter outside Nokia today. It's Fujitsu - and it's been here before.

Overall there can be no doubting Nokia's intentions. Elop intends to streamline product development in several areas, and Symbian and Ovi have explicitly been named as candidates for liposuction. The departure of the Foundation's chief Lee Williams recently with the CFO taking over has stoked the idea that it's being wound down altogether.

But this isn't necessarily so. It appears that no final decision has been made, or if it has, it hasn't been conveyed to staff. It may be that the Foundation continues with around 20 or so staff, a considerable reduction from 100.

However, the level of Symbian activity and the existence of a Foundation are really two separate issues.

How many staff will be needed at a Foundation all depends on what the stakeholders want it the Foundation to do. It is a tiny administrative organisation, concerned with licensing and governance. Meanwhile, there are over Symbian 4,000 staff, mostly engineers, at Nokia, and hundreds more working on Symbian handsets in Japan.

There are effectively no engineers at the Symbian Foundation. It doesn't do, and has never done, development. After recent events, where does that leave it?

With Samsung and Sony Ericsson no longer regarding Symbian as competitive, and focussing their efforts on Android and/or Windows Phone 7, the Foundation doesn't really do licensing any more. With Nokia tearing up the milestone-based roadmap in favour of an incremental approach, it doesn't really do roadmaps any more, either.

In 1988 Sun set about trying to make its new RISC chip, Sparc, into an industry standard. The Sparc specs became a set of IEEE standards. In 1989 Sun handed over the administration to a non-profit external body created solely for the purpose - Sparc International. Sun reckoned that most of the potential licensees - such as ICL and Amdahl - didn't compete directly with it. But it was happy to license the chip to competitors, too. Third party manufacturers went on to create Sparc chips and add-in boards (notably Cypress, Solbourne and Weitek), but the grand vision of Sparc as an industry standard didn't quite work out.

The biggest of these licensees was Fujitsu. By the early part of the Noughties, Fujitsu's Sparc machines were outperforming Sun's, and the two came to a more formal agreement. Today, many Sun servers are rebadged Fujitsu servers.

Back to the present, where (as Symbian reminds us) Fujitsu is standing shoulder to shoulder with Nokia on Symbian. Other than Nokia, Fujitsu is the only other handset manufacturer on the Symbian board.

You'll note that Fujitsu doesn't compete directly with Nokia, although fanbois may wish it were otherwise so - a recent Fujitsu Symbian prototype features two 960x640 capacitive screens on a swivel base. Geographically, it restricts these to Japan and the Asian market.

Today, Sparc International continues, its quiet existence unremarked upon. It operates out of a very modest nondescript office in the suburbs of San Jose, in Silicon Valley. Overheads must be minimal. But it survives.

I recently highlighted one reason Nokia may want to keep an independent Foundation alive. Android today has largely succeeded where Symbian failed, in gaining broad licensing adoption. But manufacturers may rue their dependence on Google - something the Symbian Foundation's former chief executive liked to point out.

Even though Symbian is no longer the top priority for Nokia, it may be worth keeping it around, at very low expense. You never know when it might come in useful. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Of COURSE Stephen Elop's to blame for Nokia woes, says author
'Google did have some unique propositions for Nokia'
FCC, Google cast eye over millimetre wireless
The smaller the wave, the bigger 5G's chances of success
It's even GRIMMER up North after MEGA SKY BROADBAND OUTAGE
By 'eck! Eccles cake production thrown into jeopardy
Mobile coverage on trains really is pants
You thought it was just *insert your provider here*, but now we have numbers
Don't mess with Texas ('cos it's getting Google Fiber and you're not)
A bit late, but company says 1Gbps Austin network almost ready to compete with AT&T
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.