Symbian Smartphone Show 2008

smartphoneshow2008.gifI had a brief visit to the Symbian Smartphone Show today. Here’s a summary of what interested me…

  • Samsung had a huge presence. It was a strange stand though - with topics that I thought were more oriented towards consumers than people in the Symbian ecosystem.
  • I couldn’t get Motorola or Sony Ericsson to commit to what they would be doing with regard to Symbian Foundation and S60. However, speaking to some 3rd parties, it’s rumoured (and I suppose predictable) that Sony Ericsson will go S60.
  • Symbian presented their proposed plans for the Symbian Foundation. There’s lots of detail I’ll post in the future. To summarise, it’s been heavily thought out to assign responsibilities, manage the complexity, maintain ongoing compatibility and discourage fragmentation. Incidentally, it’s not yet clear to me how yesterday’s Android open source release will manage these issues.
  • When I freelanced at Symbian, someone once told me that Symbian was the largest software house in the UK. Add in Nokia’s code and it’s an enormous amount of code. In the Symbian Foundation presentation we were told this is about 2000 components, 45,000 directories and 450,000 source files! 
  • I was impressed by Qt. While its use for S60 is very limited at the moment I can see great potential. It will eventually use a ‘themes’ mechanism to provide S60 look and feel (as opposed to the current generic look of apps). The resulting applications will look like they contain S60 controls but they will in fact be Qt controls. One downside is there won’t be libraries to access phone features. Instead it will be possible to call into existing DLLs - thus allowing extension via c++. Qt is actually running c++ and doesn’t use a runtime. It’s a set of c++ libraries with a designer that creates the UI. The result is a real .exe that’s wrapped for the user into a standard .sisx. It will be possible to set customisations such as Platsec capabilities, heap size etc by adding them the the Qt project file. I was told it will probably (still being worked out) be free of charge for S60 but Windows Mobile Linux etc variants will remain chargeable.
  • Symbian have a new build system called SBS that’s part of the Symbian SITK. It allows components to be built faster. It’s available to SDN++ members.
  • Symbian’s stand also had a demonstration of IBM’s new test, code coverage and profiling tool. I could see this as particularly useful for realtime (e.g. video, audio) projects.

So many people asked me, even people from within Symbian and the handset OEMs, what the affects of the Symbian Foundation might be. To be truthful, I don’t think anyone knows.

Generally, I got the impression that the many changes to the S60 ecosystem are on hold. This is due to Nokia having to wait for regulatory approval to buy Symbian.  OK, phones are still shipping and new (Symbian and Nokia) features are being implemented. However, changes to teams, processes and product lines are in a prolonged state of being planned.

(As with 2 years ago, I still find it ironic that Palm OS devices are used to scan people into the Smartphone show)

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