Lee Williams: Symbian^3 OS is ready. Asian vendor will launch S^3 phone before Nokia N8 (We guess who is it)
Lee Williams, the head of Symbian foundation, had a an interesting interview with Reuters recently, where he revealed some surprising news.
While Nokia N8 was the first officially announced Symbian^3 handset, it will not be the first S^3 smartphone to actually ship. That smartphone will come from some Asian vendor.
Since Symbian CEO is understandably reluctant to name names, just yet, we can try to narrow down potential handset makers to just a few.
I am pretty sure that the new Asian Symbian handset, will come from a member of Symbian foundation. Quick scan through member directory reveals 7 Asian companies, that can potentially make such smartphone: Samsung, Fujitsu, Compal, Foxconn, Huawei, Sharp, ZTE.
Let’s take a look at all of them:
Samsung. Samsung coming out with it’s own Symbian^3 handset, would be the best news, IMHO, for the prospects of Symbian Foundation, and wider adoption of Symbian OS. Samsung is a longtime Symbian/S60 licensee, and had some very intersting handsets before. Samsung i8910 Omnia HD comes to mind. Unfortunately, just as Nokia started moving Symbian to opensource, Samsung noticeably cooled towards this OS. First turning to Windows Mobile, then to Android, and creating it’s own smartphone platform Bada. There even were some rather credible rumors floating around, that Samsung has given up on S60 and Symbian. So a new Symbian handset, launched even before Nokia, would be a very welcome surprise indeed. It will indicate, that Samsung hasn’t completely given up on Symbian, and, if Symbian^4 lives up to it’s promise, they may become a major Symbian vendor again.
Huawei and ZTE. These Chinese vendors, making S^3 handset of their own, will also be a very welcome news for Symbian Foundation. Up until now, Symbian largely failed to attract outside handset vendors to it’s OS. I would even say, from vendor adoption POV, they’ve lost some significant ground. E.g. Motorola and LG, two big cellphone vendors from Symbian Ltd. days, didn’t even bother to join the foundation, turning to Android and Windows Mobile, instead. While Samsung has spent the last 15 months, a lifetime in mobile business, without any new Symbian phone, and largely ignoring their Symbian Flagship – Omnia HD. So getting Huawei an ZTE on board, investing in the development of new Symbian handset, would also be very good news. It shows, that Symbian is starting to attract outside vendor attention again. Huawei and ZTE also have demonstrated clear ambitions, and have the resources, to move beyond their native, Chinese market. If,again, Symbian^4 is ready by early 2011, and, is what it is claimed to be, we might see reversal in Symbian fortunes next year.
Fujitsu and Sharp. If it’s one of them, that is making that Symbian^3 phone, then, IMHO, it’s … meh. Yes Fujitsu is a new Symbian Foundation member, handset vendor. But Fujitsu and Sharp work mostly in Japan. And Japanese Symbian handsets are so locked down by operators, that you can hardly call them smartphones. If that Symbian^3 handset is their bid to enter, or get back to worldwide smartphone market, it’s welcome news. But neither Fujitsu, nor Sharp have enough experience, or strength to make any meaningful impact outside of Japan next year.
Compal and Foxconn. I don’t really believe that Lee Williams was talking about any of them. I listed them, because they are making tons of smartphones on OEM basis for some biggest brands out there. But neither is likely to be getting into smartphone biz on their own. They might be making Symbian^3 handset for some mobile operator, like China Mobile. Then again, if they are, this is more or less a non-news, in the grand scheme of things.
And there also were some other interesting tidbits about Symbian mentioned in the Reuters interview.
Lee Williams says that Symbian^3 “is almost completely mature”, and Symbian^4 will be mature by Q1, 2011. Which, IMHO, means that the actual OS code that Symbian foundation is responsible for, is ready for v3 now, and will be ready early next year for v4. The handset delays are mostly Nokia’s fault, which is screwing things up in the OS productization part. (For more on how Symbian OS becomes a part of a shipping handset, read my Chat with ex-Symbian guy, Julien Fourgeaud.)
Lee Williams also stresses that Symbian^3 is a transitory release to Symbian^4. Which makes me wonder again, what Nokia’s CEO was talking about, when he said that S^3 whas THE major effort/investment for Nokia, and S^4 is a much smaller, incremental release. Everyone from Symbian, that I talked to about this, is contradicting Nokia CEO on S^3/S64 relative importance.