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Nokia, let Symbian die so that you may live

Sitting at my desk, browsing my RSS feeds, I noticed that Engadget had an article about Symbian (the OS behind Nokia’s fleet of phones).  The article suggests that the Symbian Foundation (the OS’s developer) is closing up shop, with employees being offered severance packages. This won’t come a much of a surprise to those that follow mobile news. Samsung – once a major contributer to the foundation – has left Symbian behind, as it now has Windows Phone 7, Android and its own ‘bada’ OS to keep its devices going strong, and Sony Ericsson, also a member of the foundation, has publically stated that it has no more Symbian devices on its roadmap.

Engadget’s article was good timing, as I’d just spent the morning testing out some software on a Nokia N8 and X3-02. It was the first time I’d used any Nokia touch screen device (I know, I’ve missed so much) and I was very much underwhelmed. The software didn’t seem all the different to that of my old N73, which was that different to my N-Gage. As for the touch technology in Symbian, Nokia could have stuck with keyboards and buttons and made better products. I wondered what Nokia was thinking. Why continue to use an OS that was never designed to cope with the demands of today? Then I came to a conclusion: Nokia thinks that they’re Apple.

It should have been more obvious, the N8 doesn’t even have a user removable battery. But that’s not what I really mean. Nokia is trying to stand out from the crows of OEMs (Samsung, LG, HTC, Dell, Sony Ericsson, etc) that are creating hardware and using ‘generic’ OS with little or no differentiating features. It’s a problem, and I can see why Nokia is fighting it. Take the recent Windows Phone 7 launch for example – which device should you choose? Did anyone else notice that HTC launched 3 very similar phones (Trophy, Mozart and Surround)? It’s difficult to stand out in a crowd when the only thing you can offer is looks. This is possibly the very reason that Nokia won’t let go of its beloved Symbian.

If that’s true, Nokia’s got it all wrong. The benefits of using a more generic OS (Android or WP7) far outweigh the disadvantages, as today’s consumers want access to as much content as possible (which is a huge strength of such operating systems).  Further, consumers have always respected Nokia as a maker of fine hardware and very unique designs – but it’s been many years since anyone has praised Nokia for their OS efforts. Their inability to accept this has seen their market share suffer massively. Does anyone remember their 2008 pull-out from Japan?

Nokia will always have a place in the heart of the generations it touched with its incredibly popular handsets of years gone by. I can remember a time when anyone that didn’t own a Nokia was today’s equivalent of an iPhone hold-out. But those days are long gone Nokia, and it’s time that you accept that the world has changed. Kill Symbian, adopt Android and/or WP7, and save yourself.

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