Symbian OS Confirmed As Fully Open Source

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Fours months ahead of schedule, the Symbian Foundation has made the source code of its mobile operating system freely available to developers

The world’s most popular mobile operating system, Symbian, is now fully open source, and developers can access the source code absolutely free of charge.

It was back in October last year that the Symbian Foundation discussed its plans to make the Symbian OS open source. The move comes as it seeks to broaden Symbian’s appeal to developers and handset manufacturers, and open it up to the popular apps market. Handset manufacturers such as Nokia and Samsung have already pushed out their own mobile operating systems.

“The Symbian platform is now completely open and the source code is available for free,” said the Foundation in an email to eWEEK Europe. “The transition of this market-leading platform from proprietary code to open source is the largest in software history. The move has been completed four months ahead of schedule and provides the basis for unlimited mobile development based on innovation and openness.”

The ageing mobile operating system was acquired by Nokia in 2008 which then created the Symbian Foundation, made up of Nokia, AT&T, LG, Motorola, NTT Docomo, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments and Vodafone.

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Symbian is used in 330 million handsets around the world, the majority of them made by Nokia. However, with the arrival of Apple’s iPhone, as well as rival mobile operating systems such as Google’s open source Android, Symbian has been facing increasing competition.

“Any individual or organisation can now take, use and modify the code for any purpose, whether that be for a mobile device or for something else entirely,” said the Symbian Foundation.

“The development community is now empowered to shape the future of the mobile industry, and rapid innovation on a global scale will be the result, said Lee Williams, Executive Director of the Symbian Foundation. “When the Symbian Foundation was created, we set the target of completing the open source release of the platform by mid-2010 and it’s because of the extraordinary commitment and dedication from our staff and our member companies that we’ve reached it well ahead of schedule.”

“It’s increasingly important for smartphone platforms to offer developers something unique,” said IDC Analyst John Delaney. “The placing into open source of the world’s most widely-used smartphone platform emphatically fits that bill. It will be exciting to see where this takes the industry.”

The development was also welcomed by handset manufacturers.

“Nokia congratulates the Symbian Foundation on the completion of its platform migration to full open source well ahead of schedule – a significant milestone for the Symbian platform, the foundation and the entire mobile industry,” said Peter Ropke, Senior Vice President, Devices R&D, Nokia.

“As a founder member of the Symbian Foundation, Sony Ericsson is very pleased that the Symbian source code is now fully open and available to all for free,” said Patrik Olsson, Head of Software, Sony Ericsson. “We believe this will create new innovation on the platform and bring additional benefits to consumers.”

From 2pm today, all 108 packages containing the source code of the Symbian platform can now be downloaded from Symbian’s developer website, under the terms of the Eclipse Public License and other open source licenses.

Developers can also download the complete development kits for creating applications (the Symbian Developer Kit) and mobile devices (the Product Development Kit).