Symbian Goes Open Source – Courtesy of Nokia

Nokia has today announced that they will be acquiring the remaining 52% of Symbian they don’t own and will be releasing the complete Symbian platform under the Eclipse open source license. Nokia have also announced the creation of the Symbian Foundation, which is an alliance of mobile vendors and application providers that any company can join. The foundation will oversee the process of releasing Symbian under a new open source license, and then retain the long-term control and trademarks of the operating system.

Symbian is a mobile operating system that runs primarily on the ARM architecture used in Nokia, Sony Erricsson and Samsung devices. Symbian originated at Psion, and found its way onto Nokia handsets starting with the original Communicator. Symbian found a good home at Nokia, and its growth as a mobile platform grew as Nokia dominated the mobile handset market from 2000 onwards.

Current mobile handset market share statistics depend very largly on who you ask and which classification is used, but the ranking is currently approximately:

  • Symbian (60%)
  • Windows (15%)
  • RIM (10%)
  • iPhone (7%)

The Sybmian market share can be further broken down as not all versions are compatible with others. Regardless of the source of data, Symbian is by far the dominant smartphone operating system.

With such dominant market share, the question to ask is why Nokia would pour more money into Symbian to only then open source the platform. As the Symbian foundation says, the purpose of Symbian is to: “bring to life a shared vision and to create the most proven, open and complete mobile software platform – available for free”. Sound familiar?