Symbian Foundation a Sinking Ship

I think everyone saw this coming—the Symbian Foundation is shrinking. Not only have all of Nokia’s major hardware partner’s left it as the company making Symbian powered smartphones, the foundation is now cutting staff and changing its role. Nokia is taking firm control of the reins with the development of the platform and the Symbian Foundation will now just handle licensing under a new “alternative open model.”

The move makes sense. Nobody wants to use Symbian anymore. Nokia’s slowly eroding market share is proof enough. The new Nokia N8 has amazing hardware and the company certainly knows how to build a phone, but the operating system is widely derided as the device’s key weakness and a deal breaker.

Why is Symbian dying? Because of Apple and Google. Look at all the major operating systems : iOS, Android, WP7, webOS and BlackBerry. After the iPhone came out and Apple made people realize how much better the smartphone experience could be through a better operating system, Google was quick to introduce Android to the market and let manufacturers build whatever they wanted with it. Motorola dropped Symbian like a hot potato and now look at the success of its DROID line.

Windows Phone 7 is Microsoft’s answer to both iOS and Android and yet unproven. Palm released webOS too late and nearly went bankrupt. RIM has plans to ditch BlackBerry OS on its smartphones in favor of QNX’s BlackBerry Tablet OS that is under development for the PlayBook. Long story short? iOS and Android are what people want. Maybe not the operating systems themselves, but the intuitive ideas behind them. The concept of a smartphone that is easier to use than your PC.

So what will Nokia do? It still says it wants to try out MeeGo—a Linux based OS—as an alternative to Symbian but has not made any smartphones with it yet. Something makes me think that if Nokia doesn’t slam dunk its next effort, it too will jump to Android. Now that would certainly shift the OS game into Google’s favor. If you think about it, Android is perfect for not just the high-end flagship smartphones, but also the quickly expanding, low-end smartphone category. Feature phones are dying and Android has no problem filling the void.

Think Symbian has any future? MeeGo going to be better? Android eventually going to take over the world? Let me know in the comments.

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