Monday, January 2, 2012

Nokia Symbian/Belle Here To Stay

This is a post I should have made months ago when it would have been a prediction, rather than a commentary.  Oh well.

Nokia is in a most fascinating position.  Much has been said about the shift to Windows Phone 7 from Symbian, and thus how Symbian is dead.

This was never going to be the case, and the reasons are simple:

1. Most of Nokia's sales are of low-cost phones.
2. Windows Phone 7 can't run on low-cost phones.

And the supplementary reason:

3. Windows Phone 7 relies on a lot of mobile data for a satisfactory experience, which the people who buy low-cost phones in developing countries cannot afford.

It is also worth noting that Symbian phones typically have longer battery life than other smart-phone platforms, which gives them a strong advantage in developing markets where reliable power supply may not be available.  This is especially true for the S40 phones, which can browse the web and last a week or more between recharging, whereas I think I am doing well if I can get 2-3 days out of the Android phones I have here, and daily charging is a reality for many.

Symbian is still the most used phone OS for web browsing.  In fact, Symbian might even have gained a little bit of (mobile web browsing) market share recently (those stats lump the S40, S60 and S80 platforms together, which is a little confounding, but it still shows a clear overall picture for the overall Symbian family).

All of these reasons (and more) are why, from the outset, it Symbian has been high on the list of mobile operating systems to port Serval's mesh telephony platform to.

It seems that Stephen Elop has now realised the reality of Nokia's continuing need for Symbian: Symbian which was previously being thrown out, has suddenly got a new name, Nokia Belle.

The renaming should be interpreted as a spin-doctored retreat from the abandonment of Symbian: you don't rename a platform you have already killed, you rename a platform you want to do better in future.

Nokia will continue to support Symbian/Belle for some time yet, because it has to.

What is interesting as well, is that getting Serval onto Symbian/Belle and also onto the Nokia S40 platform could make a significant difference for Nokia in protecting the low-cost phone market by providing a compelling market differentiator (everyone loves a free call) for Nokia in that space, where they are under heavy competition from a plethora of cheap Indian and Chinese handsets.  Remember, this is the main revenue source for Nokia.

Of course, it has taken Nokia a year to realise that they need to keep Symbian/Belle, so I am not holding my breath for sudden engagement from Nokia --- although we would gladly work with them to get our software onto Symbian, where it can help hundreds of millions of people communicate, and help Nokia's future prospects along the way.

No comments:

Post a Comment