Symbian Closes Its Source Code

Nokia seemed to be making the right move when it opened the source code to the Symbian operating system, which runs on a large number of cell phones and handheld devices.  So when they announced that they were closing their code, the natural question was: Why?

Nokia never reaped the benefits that they wanted from their Open Source strategy.  Nokia was hoping that by opening up the code, other hardware manufacturers and the user community would do the heavy lifting of porting the software to new hardware.

But to get other people to contribute their work, you need an advantage for them as well. What can this advantage be? For Eclipse, most of the companies developing their own integrated development environment (IDE) found it economically sensible to drop their own work and contribute to Eclipse instead. It allowed them to quickly reduce their maintenance and development costs while increasing their quality as well. The Symbian foundation should have done the same thing, but apparently missed the mark, despite having a large number of partners and members. Why?

The reason is time and focus. The Eclipse foundation had, for quite some time, basically used only IBM resources to provide support and development. In a similar way, it took WebKit (which is not quite a foundation, but follows the same basic model) more than two years before it started receiving substantial contributions[.]

(Carlo Daffara)

Also compare Symbian’s Open Source history to that of Mozilla.  After Netscape launched the Mozilla foundation it took years of effort for the critical mass to arise.  Evidently, Nokia had no interest in putting in this same level of effort.

Additionally, Symbian had a disadvantage when compared to some of these other projects. Android is open, mobile, relatively easy to port to new hardware, and increasingly ubiquitous.  Large hardware manufacturers have dumped Symbian in favor of Android.  Google understood the importance of the Open Source community and embraced it.

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