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Jonathan Erickson

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Is That a SymbianOS Atom In Your Future?

April 28, 2009

SymbianOS is an operating system just for mobile phones, right? Well, maybe, but then maybe more. According to Lee Williams, executive director of the Symbian Foundation, there's nothing stopping SymbianOS from finding a home on non-mobile platforms, such as the Intel Atom processor that's enjoying success in the current generation of netbooks.

The technical feasibility of  this is something that Williams touched on in a recent blog where he revealed that "a few of the bright and capable guys in the (S60 on Symbian Customer Operations) team have Symbian compiling via GCC and now running on an off-the-shelf Atom-based motherboard from Intel."

He went on to explain that SymbianOS has, in fact, been running on x86 platforms for a number of years. More recently, however, a team of Symbian developers has written drivers for Atom, ultimately porting GCC to the Atom, among other projects.

Apparently the Symbian Foundation isn't the only organization that's finding the prospects of SymbianOS-based non-mobile device -- one that uses low power and supports web-based features -- attractive. And who might that? Williams is close-lipped at this time, saying only that the Symbian Foundation is currently "in discussions with multiple parties."

In fact, a SymbianOS-based netbook might be an attractive proposition for vendors looking to build an inexpensive netbook. To date, the netbook market has been dominated by Windows and the license fees that drive up the cost of the device. At the other end of the spectrum, Linux-based netbooks haven't exactly ignited the imagination of consumers. As an open source alternative to these two operating systems, SymbianOS may have a lot to offer, including a strong set of development tools, such as the popular Qt cross-platform framework  and Python, among others.

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