Mobile software maker Symbian has made its smartphone platform open source, letting developers use and modify the platform's underlying source code for any purpose. Until now, the source code for the platform was only open to members of the Symbian organisation. The Symbian 3 platform, including applications, middleware, and the kernel itself, will be offered [...]

Mobile software maker Symbian has made its smartphone platform open source, letting developers use and modify the platform's underlying source code for any purpose. Until now, the source code for the platform was only open to members of the Symbian organisation. The Symbian 3 platform, including applications, middleware, and the kernel itself, will be offered under terms of the Eclipse Public License and other open source licenses.
05/02/2010


Despite being the world's most popular smart phone operating system, Symbian has been losing the publicity battle, with Google's Android operating system and Apple's iPhone dominating recent headlines. The company is hoping the move will attract new developers to work on the system and help speed up the pace of improvements.
"You can download it, you can modify it," said Larry Berkin, head of global alliances for the foundation. Previously, the kernel was made available via open source.
"We're open-sourcing 108 packages that will be available at the source code level," Berkin said. Handset manufacturers can modify the code and build differentiated handsets, he said. Originally due to be fully open-sourced by June, foundation members accelerated the process, said Berkin.
"End users will see, ideally, differentiated devices, converged devices that are based on Symbian that range from smartphones [to converged devices]," such as cameras or a phone that is a gaming device, Belkin added.
Open-sourcing possibly could result in incompatible, forked versions of the platform, Berkin said. Manufacturers will need to be responsible for their work with Symbian. The market can be self-correcting in situations such as this, he said.
There are 330 million Symbian-based devices in use, according to Berkin. Five manufacturers currently build Symbian devices: Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Fujitsu, and Sharp.
Symbian technology had been driven by Symbian Limited, the majority of which was owned by Nokia, which then spun it out as an open source project.
The source code, which consists of more than 40 million lines, is now available here.