Mar 19 AT 10:00 AM Alex Byrnes 6 Comments

Could Symbian Really Squeeze Android Out?

This smartphone article has gotten a lot of buzz around the office in recent days. (By office I mean apartment I share with my dog, but the fact remains.) Nearly everyone in the office is talking about this article. Fifty percent.

Jason Hiner does a disservice to Android, which upsets me personally, but worse than that, he’s so insulting to the entire smartphone-observant community that he’s got me sticking up for the iPhone.

Some of Mr. Hiner’s claims:

“Businesses will play a similar role in the smartphone business that they play in the PC market.”

This is a simple one. Businesses have to buy PCs for their employees. They usually don’t need to buy them phones, and additionally dictate which phone they buy. (And they don’t generally dictate based on security, which Mr. Hiner revisits several times. The president has phone security. Ralph’s Towing does not.)

Businesses may buy their employees phones, but most don’t. Business’ role in the PC market is much, much greater than their role in the smartphone market. Phone sales are consumer driven. Thirteen million iPhones were not sold last year to businesses. Businesses were not lined up around that ridiculous cube store in New York.

“It wasn’t until iPhone 2.0 when the software added Exchange support and business-friendly features that iPhone sales really took off.”

It also won Invention of the Year and dropped from $500 to $200, but who’s counting? It must be businesses sending their people to camp out in front of the cube for two days. “Johnson, head down to the cube and buy yourself an iPhone…”

“Linux=Google Android (for the most part)”

Android only makes up twenty percent of the Linux handset market sales from Q4 2008. They’ve actually been making Linux phones for a while.

“…Symbian will have to go toe-to-toe with Google Android to fight for the hearts of open source software developers… Due to the current reach of Symbian, the strong open source overtures made by Nokia, and the fact that Android hasn’t been a slam dunk with the open source community, I think Symbian has the advantage over Android.”

Symbian does not have the advantage over Android in any way shape or form other than being first. Android has been out on a commercial phone for five months. Symbian has been on the market since 2001. Android is still an infant by comparison and has a lot of capacity to grow. It is not burdened by incompatible versions of a user interface , a ridiculously difficult development environment , disgruntled developers , and viruses .

Furthermore, I can tell you there’s nothing that will make Symbian less popular with the open source community than charging $1,500 for access to the code.

And as long as we’re talking about money, if this OS is so great, why have they started giving it away? When’s the last time the open source project cost more than the hardware you were going to run it on?

Clearly Symbian (Nokia) is just reacting to the 20 percent it recently lost off its market share and nothing else. That’s where the recent jab at Android came from. That’s where the free phones are coming from. And that’s why it’s open source. It hopes to be on par with Android in a year or two, which is why its CEO not taking any swipes at the big boys on the way down.

“Windows Mobile is maddeningly difficult to use.”

Okay, that one is true.  I wouldn’t have said difficult to use exactly. Maybe “extraordinarily frustrating.”  Windows bashing unites us all.

I think the worst thing that’s wrong with Mr. Hiner’s article is that he gets the smartphone market all wrong. Everything is going to change in six months, and then it’s going to change again in another six months on and on, and every change will be somewhat radical and unexpected, but at the same time those seeds are already in the ground. Potential counts so much.

Before Apple was known for phones, you might be tempted to say it wouldn’t be any good at it. There were no Google gadgets of any kind before the G1. And yet here we are. Following the trends by looking at the money and a few loosely defined concepts like “unified communications” and “fixed mobile convergence solutions” is like saying that Vista is going to be great because it sounds like a nice view.

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  • http://www.googleandblog.com/ Michael Martin

    Great post as any article touting Symbian over pretty much any other mobile software comes across as Nokia PR.

    My prediction is that Symbian itself will be bought out in 2010/2011 by whoever has the edge in mobile space by then.

    Nokia has now positioned itself as the sole negotiator of its sale to simplify this process once this time comes – IMHO

    ,Michael Martin
    Google And Blog

  • Abe

    Please provide your full article feed to planet android.

    • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

      We are still tweaking and optimizing our RSS feed. If you want to experience all our videos and pictures, I suggesting visiting the full site. We are also working on a mobile version for all our G1 fans.

  • Andres

    I wouldn’t be too quick to discount “businesses” in general. you have to remember that before blackberries were all over bars across america and the world they were the only phone where a corporation (rather than just ralph’s towing) can fully control honestly important and valuable intellectual property.

    i work for a medium/small company, and when a new blackberry comes out, people always push the IT department to start “approving” it. of course company secrets are still company secrets, so when BBs starting putting cameras on the curve or pearl, it became a bit of an issue. with initial work arounds being disabled features, etc. i think things have relaxed some in that regard, and i have seen some company issued iphones about, (mostly in marketing type positions.) no g1s, but we just have to wait till the IT group says ok. (so the lines aren’t around the block from a phone store, but a flood of emails to the appropriate managers.)

    when you talk smart phones you include the blackberries which have huge numbers in these communities, slowly leeching out into society (i remember getting the 7100 as my personal phone not too long ago.) and the iphone moving in the other direction. sprinkle in some moto Qs and you have a little more rounded picture of how things are in this sphere.

    the g1 can’t really come into that yet, they are just too customizable (which is why i got it.) but a company’s IT will want a death grip on it, like they always do. traditional companys are just too slow to jump on it this soon.

  • http://techti.me/ Matthew Stevens

    Symbian as we know it now it about to change with the N97, which runs QT. One of my sources at Nokia describes it as Linux with a Synbian Shell. She wnet on to call it a Internet Table (N800/N810) Symbian mashup.

    The fact remains Nokias has been complacent in its market share. They own +40% of the global mobile phone market and outside the US where Windows Mobile doesn’t have much market share Symbian has a vast majority of the market. Nokia has recently pulled out of Japan, where they had only a few percent of the market. They have neglected the US market for years. Only in the last couple years have they begun to resurface but I think its too little too late. Windows Mobile, Blackberry, iPhone and now Android have more interest among most consumers. I’ve been a long time Symbian user and rarely do I find a non-tech person that has even heard of Symbian or S60.

  • http://Website darcy

    read that smartphone article again
    what a stupid prediction is that
    symbian sucks
    and nokia will eventually use a third party OS to operate their bad looking slow nokia phones.
    symbian was a legend, but android is a miracle.