Explaining SYMBEOSE, Symbian& EU funding thing

Yesterday Symbian published the news about receiving a 22 million Euro funding through EU Artemis Joint Technology Initiative for a project called SYMBEOSE.

For those not familiar how these EU funding projects work and EUspeak in general, in which  part of that post was written, SYMBEOSE announcement might have sounded mightily confusing . No wonder the cries of OMG, the sky is falling, Symbian just became semi-government organization and is officially dead, started.

Well, before I got involved with Unwired View, I’ve spent 10+ years of my life working with various EU backed and funded projects, so I didn’t find anything remotely threatening to Symbian future in this particular announcement. And there were some good news for Symbian Foundation here – it may survive in some form even after all main OEMs, except for Nokia, have pulled out of it.

So what did actually Symbian announced yesterday and what is SYMBEOSE project?

Yesterday’s announcement probably means that Symbian Foundation has signed a contract with EU funded Artemis JU Initiave, that sponsors various EU wide R&D projects working on embedded systems, to implement SYMBEOSE project. The announcement language is a bit ambiguous , but I think the total size of the this project is 22 million Euro to be spent over the next 3 years. 11 million of which will come from Artemis and the other half – from the members of SYMBEOSE consortium.

I do not have exact information of who the members of SYMBEOSE consortium are, the only names I was able to find for now are Nokia, ST- Ericsson and Telefonica. There’s also a bunch of universities and some software and  services companies working in the embedded field.

The folks employed by the companies in SYMBEOSE  consortium will be working on a code in these fields:

Core OS
2.1 – Asymmetric multi-processing
2.2 – Security and Identity
2.3 – Cloud based file systems
2.4 – Video acceleration interface and new video standards
2.5 – Advanced image processing
2.6 – USB On-the-go (incl stack)
2.7 – Platforms beyond mobile

3.1 – Power management infrastructure
3.2 – Dependable resource management and QoS
3.3 – Low power location acquisition
3.4 – Emergency calling over VoIP
3.5 – (Bluetooth) ultra-wide-band (needs definition)

Applications and Services
4.1 – Web session migration
4.2 – Payment services
4.3 – Rich multimedia interaction (incl voice, gesture etc)
4.4 – Native infrastructure for mobile user-generated Services
4.5 – Phone-centric application?
4.6 – Cross-platform portability to Symbian

Development Environments and Tools
5.1 – Application profiling / tuning
5.2 – Virtual simulation platform development
5.3 – JIT Compilation
5.4 – Hardware reference platform – low cost
5.5 – Non-programmer development tools

Part of the developers, especially those working for companies that were already closely involved in Symbian development, probably would have been working on these things anyway. But EU money and consortium partner financial commitments, will keep others from getting reassigned to competing platforms like Android, and it will get some more people and more focus on Symbian development in the embedded space.

In other words – most of the hard code related stuff that’s in the SYMBEOSE project,  was already in the plans for Symbian platform. All this project does is add some additional wind behind these plans. Those developers that were already programming things, will keep doing that and may get some additional help. Other companies, that had plans of reducing their Symbian exposure, may now reconsider. Also a bunch a professors in academia will get a bunch of money for Symbian curricula development, market research studies, and other academic stuff. Plus there will be a nice chunk of travel money, for meetings in nice settings for project management, coordination, team-building and overall good time.

Most, or all of these coding folks will come from consortium partner companies, not Symbian Foundation itself. As a lead project partner, SFs main focus will be the project management stuff.

Still, these are a great news for Symbian Foundation. Despite a pretty persistent rumors that it is heading for the shutdown, the fact that it is now a lead partner in EU funded SYMBEOSE project means, that it will survive as a legal entity for the next 3 years at least. Most likely it will be much smaller then it is now, and part of the stuff the foundation was doing will get shut down. But as a lead partner in SYMBEOSE project, it will have the salaries of at least 3 persons involved in admin/coordination/governance  tasks, at least partially covered from project funds.

There’s also a part of the SEMBEOSE project called “Marketing and Exploitation”, that will be working on things like:

  • Path to market – monetisation (Symbian signed and Horizon)
  • Market research and analysis
  • Success metrics framework
  • Integration, demonstrators and packaging

Where another bunch of foundation folks can get involved.

What does it mean for the Symbian OS? In the short term – not much. SYMBEOSE is only a small part of the development that is happening in the Symbian ecosystem. And it will take a while for them to get started, so I won’t expect any real code contributions to trickle down to the OS until late 2011 at best. Later-on, some of the code created during the project will get into OS, and some of it might not have happened without this project at all. We’ll have to wait and see how the project progresses to decide whether it helped or not.

Overall, Nokia with  QT is now openly taking over the most of the consumer facing stuff anyway. So getting a committed funding for companies interested in Symbian development on the lower embedded systems level, might be exactly what the Symbian platform needs to survive in the long run.

And who knows, maybe the work of managing SYMBEOSE project, with it’s sharp focus on lower level embedded systems development, will finally help the foundation to figure out what it wants to be and the constituency it wants to serve.  There’s a good take on that by ex-Symbian guy Julien Fourgeaud  here.

Author: Julien

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  • http://twitter.com/metalgrx Giorgos Kontos

    I enjoyed reading this article