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Symbian Sputters Towards Open-Source Irrelevancy

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Remember two years ago when Nokia open-sourced the Symbian mobile operating system? The thinking was that cell phone manufacturers who depended on the Symbian OS could help keep it going. But it was already too late. The iPhone’s iOS and Android started to take over. Even die-hard Symbian supporters abandoned ship. As the fanboy blogger Symbian Guru explained last summer when he decided to give up on Symbian:

I also can’t continue to support a mobile operating system platform that continually buries itself into oblivion by focusing on ‘openness’ while keeping a blind eye towards the obvious improvements that other open platforms have had for several iterations.

Now Symbian is delivering itself another blow—this time self-inflicted. The Symbian Foundation, which hosts all the open-source code, big fixes, and documentation for the OS, is shutting down its websites on December 17. The Symbian OS will still technically be open-source, it will just be impractical for many developers to look at it or improve it. According to a post on the Symbian Foundation’s developer blog, the open-source code and other information currently on its websites will be made “available in some form, most likely on a DVD or USB hard drive upon request to the Symbian Foundation. . . . A charge may be levied for media and shipping.”

In other words, the Symbian OS will be open only in name. What good is open-source code if it is not available online, where it can continue to evolve? For all practical purposes, it will become an artifact of the age of feature phones. Nokia will no doubt continue to develop the Symbian OS for its own purposes. But what a way to show disdain to the open-source community it professed to embrace only two years ago.

Of course, there is nothing stopping someone else from hosting all the code and documentation going forward on an independent site. Will any developers care enough to take on that task?

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