Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Symbian vs. Android vs. Windows Mobile

I spent a night last week at a Symbian dinner. Very interesting discussions with other mobile bloggers (the real ones, I do it as a hobby...), with an hands-on pretty cool demonstration of the Nokia N97 (yes, it is a very nice device, a mix between a N95 and a Tablet N810, although I am not a big fan of sliding keyboards).

Most of my thoughts on Symbian, though, were on the open source plans. They confirmed to be on track for a 2010 full release, although some parts will be available in open source earlier. They told me they have some components that they can't open source right away, which is a quite common problem for commercial products that want to become open source (and very painful to complete to the last bit).

Since the complete take-over from Nokia, my antennas in the market have been up to see if some of the Symbian backers would defect to other initiatives. The one to look for are device manufacturers.

Yesterday, I saw the first sign: Sony Ericsson announced support for the Open Handset Alliance, the one behind Android, led by Google.

This is big news.

I know, I know, everyone is announcing support for everything... It is no big deal. Sony Ericsson has Windows Mobile as well... blah blah.

Still, it is a flag. They have been a huge supporter of Symbian and they are breaking out from the pack, now that Nokia owns it completely.

There is a possibility that Symbian will end up being a one-device-manufacturer-shop (Nokia), while Android will see lots of device manufacturers, because they do not perceive Google to be competitive in their space. And they have the feeling they can strip out Google features from Android and launch phones on a well supported platform, with development mindshare and applications.

This spells trouble for Nokia, if it happens, since developers go where devices are. Making Symbian open source might not be enough, although it is a very significant step in the right direction.

Anyway, I still believe Microsoft will open source Windows Mobile in the not-too-distant future. They have no other choice. But I am very alone on this one :-)