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The Symbian open source experiment has failed

ZDNet reports Sony Ericsson are abandoning Symbian for Android, and Samsung headed down the Android and Bada road a while back. There are precious few device manufacturers remaining as foundation members, e.g. ZTE, Sharp and Compal, none of whom are exactly trend-setting industry leaders.

via The Symbian open source experiment has failed [Gartner].

I was going to ask what happened to ‘Open always wins?’ but decided against it.

What I will say is that open sourcing Symbian was not a new beginning for the platform but the beginning of the end. I don’t think anybody seriously considered it a viable multi-vendor platform, least of all Nokia.

  • GoodyBird

    Seem to me that "open always wins" is a scarecrow opponent.
    who the hell claims that anyway?

    • famousringo

      Well, Andy Rubin has been quoted saying that "open usually wins.":

      http://www.engadget.com/2010/04/27/googles-andy-r

      Since Android started waving the Flag of Openness, you have seen forum-going Android enthusiasts assert that "open always wins." I agree, they get a little more attention than they deserve, but I still feel that the merits and flaws of open systems versus closed systems is worthy of discussion.

      Now if we could only establish exactly what 'open' means…

      • GoodyBird

        He said usually.
        which is arguable, but not moronic.

        When you find somebody that say "open always win" you can mock
        him to your heart content.

    • FalKirk

      You statement surprises me a little. I don’t know if analysts say it, although I think some do, but I know a bunch of pundits who say it and most everyone of the anti-Apple commentators repeat it like a religious mantra. I responded to one such post on Fortune’s Apple 2.0 blog just today. I guess you hang with a higher class of commentator than I do.

      • GoodyBird

        So I googled, "open always wins",
        and most of the results lead to this post
        http://www.asymco.com/2010/07/04/open-always-wins

        Then I've tried, "open always win", and I've found some supporters,
        so I guess people with bad grammar supports that claim,
        although they're usually adding, "in the long term" or "in the end of
        the day", which to my opinion means, "when the messiah will come"
        (or when Sauron will be destroyed).

        So still no cookie for you. You can always find somebody claiming something on Google.

    • FalKirk

      Your reply to my post intrigued me. Are we talking semantics are are we truly trying to determine if "open always wins" is a living, breathing philosophy? You argued that "open always wins" is a straw man, and if you mean it in exactly that form, then I'll agree with you. I think Horace was using hyperbole to make a point. But if you're denying that people believe that exact thing, then I'll disagree with you. Many of the less sophisticated commentators believe exactly that, even if they don't use that exact language.

      You said you did some Google searches. I searched for "open always wins" but removed any references to "Asymco" and got 6,250 hits. But the problem is that people don't use the exact phrase "open always wins" but they imply it. The relevant portion of the post I read yesterday in Apple 2.0 was:

      "(The iPad is) on a closed system. This is what almost killed Apple in the 90's and why Microsoft had the dominant share of the PC Industry."-Eric

      No references to "open always wins" there, but the implications are clear: Apple lost because it was closed, Microsoft won because it was open. End of story, no further analysis required.

      http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2010/09/27/can-anybod

      Now you may argue that Eric is a fool, which is true, but there is no doubt, in my mind at least, that the philosophy of "open always wins" permeates most all of the Android v. Apple discussions. If you disagree, I suspect it is because, as I suggested in my original post, that hang with a higher class of internet commentators than I do. I aspire to be more like you in that regard.

      • GoodyBird

        I think I wouldn't raise a question if Horace would not have use such a conflicting terminology ("modular always wins, unless it's Symbian" just isn't sexy enough).

        Yes there are people who say that the iPhone is Doomed because it is Closed, but I don't think they mean it [doomed], because the source code is unavailable.

        It's just not an open source movement mantra. In fact if "Open [source] always wins" was true, then there would have been no need for an open source movement in the first place.

      • FalKirk

        Yeah, the problem might be in the definition of the word "open". It's come to mean so many things that now the term is essentially meaningless. Horace defines how he's using it for this post and that's probably the best way to go.

  • Rob Scott

    Open rarely wins is probably more correct. What amazes me is that these Open advocates like to present Windows as an example of an "open" operating system winning against a closed OS X. This is despite the fact that Windows is a proprietary (and closed) operating systems. Only Microsoft has the source code and only them decides what goes into and out of the OS, not some community as is the case with Linux, the real open OS. You cannot fork Windows.

    Market share is probably the worst measure ever created. Unit market share is even worse. I have been in organization where we chased (management decision) market share above all else with dire consequences (especially when it relates to profitability, quality and service). Sure Microsoft can buy its way up market share rankings, like Android OEMs are buying it through margin reduction. I hope Apple never succumb to this dumb race. Sure, for a solid iOS platform Apple will require a sizable market share probably 15 – 20%. It Apple can achieve this without sacrificing quality, service and margins. We need a profitably Apple!

    • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

      I advocate changing the terminology as follows: open = modular, closed = integrated. This covers the idea that modular Windows was successful vs. integrated MacOS. It also covers the idea that integrated iOS is successful over modular Windows Mobile.

      The question is not *whether* one is better than another, but rather *when* one should implement either.

      • Shaun

        I can see where you're coming from but there's too much baggage already with open and closed to change it.

  • Charlie

    Isn't it a bit early for anyone to be claiming that the "Symbian experiment with open source" has failed? It seems to be heading in the right direction from what I can see (and they're very public about their progress, unlike other allegedly "open source" projects, Google).

    If SE had abandoned the Symbian Foundation completely then that might give grounds for such a bold claim but as far as I know no firm has left the Foundation, they're just not planning on using Symbian^3 (as this is the only available Symbian product that anyone could currently contemplate using).

    Symbian^3 is a stop-gap product to take users and developers from Symbian^1 to Symbian^4 due in H1 2011. If SE announce in H1 2011 that they still have no plans to use Symbian^4 then fair enough, but right now they're still on board and taking a sensible and cautious approach. After all, they have their hands full trying to flog an ever decreasing number of increasingly less profitable Android devices each quarter.

    As for this analyst at Gartner, he seems to be ignoring the involvement of numerous other software companies (Chinese, Indian etc.) and other manufacturers (Fujitsu, NTT DoCoMo) that have invested code, time and money in Symbian via the Foundation to take the platform forward (Fujitsu, for instance, are working on the SMP development for S^4). Nokia pulling Symbian back inside is no longer an option.

    • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

      @Charlie. Thank you for the clarification.

    • tom

      symbian^3 is not only stopgap solution, until symbian^4 is ready.
      it is also transitional step – it let's developers prepare for new qt-only world.

  • Shaun

    As AllAboutSymbian.com pointed out, SE have still been active in Symbian Foundation meetings and still regularly attend.

    They may not have immediate product plans but they're still participating in the Symbian open source experiment.

    http://www.allaboutsymbian.com/news/item/12142_No

  • tom

    don't forget – it is open symbian vs open android. so if symbian looses – it's not because of opennes

    • Shaun

      No, no no. According to Horace, Symbian is closed.