Up To 400 Developers Abandon Work On Symbian

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Several hundred ex-Nokia employees voluntarily left work after being outsourced to Accenture

Hundreds of employees who were outsourced to work on Nokia’s failing Symbian platform have left the company after claiming severance packages worth up to 15 months’ pay.

Nokia transferred 1,200 Symbian developers to consultancy firm Accenture last autumn. It was expected they would continue to work on Symbian while contracted to their new employer, as Nokia promised to support the operating system until 2016.

The flight of the developers was discovered by Finland’s English-language news service YLE News yesterday.

More dead than alive

Symbian has gradually lost market share over the years as the smartphone market has grown, not able to compete with new platforms such as Android and iOS. According to some estimates, there are between 200 and 300 million Symbian devices still in use around the world.

To maintain its position as the leading mobile phone manufacturer, last year Nokia decided to focus on the Windows Phone operating system. Although the company said it will continue supporting Symbian, management of the outdated platform was transferred to the global consulting, technology services and outsourcing firm Accenture.

But the new management hasn’t been able to keep developers from leaving. A shop steward Sami Sallmén told YLE there is now so little work that some Accenture employees are left literally twiddling their thumbs.

“Workers have not exactly been pleased with their new employer and they want to seek new challenges outside the company,” said Sallmén.

The severance packages have been an agreeable alternative to sitting in the office for many developers. Sallmén himself admitted he plans to leave Accenture. He says outsourcing was a disappointing experience, “hassle and negative feedback the whole time.”

Nokia’s chief executive Stephen Elop announced in February that the company would phase out Symbian as its smartphone platform in favour of a partnership with Microsoft, resulting in the loss of 4,000 jobs and the outsourcing of Symbian developers.

However, it is still too early to bury the first modern smartphone OS. Yesterday, a few screenshots of the new version of the platform, codenamed “Carla”, surfaced online. They revealed a new virtual QWERTY keyboard, NFC support, Dolby surround sound, new improved widgets and an enhanced browser. There are at least three upcoming Simbian handsets in the works.

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