Nokia Exec Hints At 2014 Symbian Support Cut-Off

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Comments by a Nokia boss in Australia suggest that support for Symbian will end after 2014

Nokia’s long term commitment to the Symbian operating system has been called into question again after comments made by an executive down under.

Nokia has already said it will continue to develop the legacy Symbian mobile operating system. But the managing director of Nokia Australia, Chris Carr, told reporters in Sydney that contractual arrangements would see Nokia supporting new Symbian phones on the market for two years after they were released.

Now Nokia has already pledged to release Symbian-based phones in 2011 and 2012, so this would suggest a possible deadline of 2014, when Nokia could potentially cease Symbian development.

Long Term Concerns

Concerns about Nokia’s long term commitment to Symbian have been surfacing for a while now, ever since Nokia announced in February an agreement with Microsoft to make Windows Phone 7 its primary smartphone operating system, starting in 2012.

These concerns were not helped by the open letter to Nokia developers on 25 March, from Purnima Kochikar, the VP of Forum Nokia and Developer Communities.

“Over the past weeks we have been evaluating our Symbian roadmap and now feel confident we will have a strong portfolio of new products during our transition period – i.e. 2011 and 2012,” wrote Kochikar, but then admitted she could provide no clear answer to Nokia’s long term commitment to Symbian.

“I’ve been asked many times how long we will support Symbian and I’m sure for many of you it feels we have been avoiding the question,” Kochikar wrote. “The truth is, it is very difficult to provide a single answer. We hope to bring devices based on Windows Phone to market as quickly as possible, but Windows Phone will not have all language and all localisation capabilities from day one.”

Country Specific?

“In many markets, including markets where Symbian is currently the lead smartphone platform with significant market share such as China, India, Russia and Turkey, we will continue to make our Symbian portfolio as competitive as possible while we work with Microsoft to introduce Windows Phone,” she added. “For that reason certain markets will play a more significant role in selling the 150 million Symbian devices than others and we will be selling devices long after Windows Phone devices from Nokia have already started to appear in other markets. That is why we cannot give you the date when Symbian will no longer be supported.”

Kochikar then went to state that Nokia hopes to gradually move Symbian users onto Windows Phone handsets.

“What I can promise you is that we will not just abandon Symbian users or developers,” she wrote. “As a very minimum, we have a legal obligation, varying in length between countries, to support users for a period of time after the last product has been sold.”

“Our intention is that when users come to the end of the natural lifecycle of their Symbian device they will make the change to a Nokia Windows Phone device and so it would not be in our interests to undermine their Nokia smartphone experience,” she wrote.

Symbian Decline

Kochikar said that operators are backing Nokia’s commitment to continue to sell and support Symbian devices while it makes the transition to Windows Phone. But the Microsoft mobile operating system still has it own unanswered questions, namely what are the actual sales of Windows Phone 7 based handsets to date?

Earlier this week Nokia announced a Symbian OS update (Anna) and two high-end Symbian-based devices, the consumer-oriented touchscreen X7 and the business-oriented E6, which are to launch later in the second quarter of 2011 for £300 and £338 respectively.

Many have felt that the writing has been on the wall for Symbian for some time now. Nokia was the dominant global smartphone maker, but has progressively lost market share to Apple’s iPhone and Google Android. Indeed, some analysts believe Android has already overtaken Symbian.

Gartner still places Symbian in the lead, but its vice president Nick Jones likened Symbian to the Titanic in an influential comment which became prophetic when Nokia teamed with Microsoft.

Nokia did not respond to eWEEK Europe UK at the time of writing.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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