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Mobile OS Openess: What does it mean to the Developer

June 24, 2008

With the recent announcement by Nokia to acquire the remaining 52% of Symbian Limited, the software company that develops and licenses the Symbian OS, Mobile Operating System Openess has taken a big leap (see the recent entry by Jon Erickson).

Nokia also announced the establishment of the Symbian Foundation established to provide a royalty-free open platform and accelerate innovation.  From the web site "The demand for converged mobile devices is accelerating. By 2010 we expect four billion people to have joined the global mobile conversation. For many of these people, their mobile will be their first Internet experience, not just their first camera, music player or phone.  Open software is the basic building block for delivering this future."  The Symbian Foundation will make the platform  available to members ($1500 membership fee) under a royalty-free license from the non-profit foundation, this will include rival phone makers Samsung, Sony Ericsson, LG Electronics and Motorola.  Developers will share in the spoils of Openess as well. According to the Foundation, " The platform will be free and open to develop on from the start whether you are enthusiast, web designer, professional developer or service provider. To develop on the platform you will not need to be a member of the foundation. The Symbian Foundation's developer program will provide a single point of access for developer support; providing a wide offering of tools and resources."

Many in the industry see this as a direct challenge to Google's Android initiative which is scheduled to deliver the first Android-based handset in the second half of 2008.  So what does all this mean to Mobile Application Developers?  Let's run down the stats on the major Mobile OS offerings.


  • 65% Market Share (Q4 2007)
  • Scheduled to be Open Source in 2 years
  • Based on Symbian OS
  • License fee to carriers scheduled to change to free.
  • Cross platform SDK available targeting specific UI platforms
  • Development Environments available from multiple vendors
    Carbide.c++ ,Visual Studio .NET ,VistaMax for a fee.
  • Languages supported C++ and Java
  • An Emulator is available as well as remote debugging.
  • Touch screen support is scheduled.
  • Java and Flash are supported.
  • Digital Certificates are used and required on some phones.
  • Limited retail support for developers which may change with new Symbian foundation.
  • Applications installed directly on phone or using PC Suite.
  • Eclipse Public License scheduled to be released

Windows Mobile

  • 12% Market Share (Q4 2007)  
  • Not Open Source, Closed OS
  • Based on Windows CE Kernel
  • License fee to carriers.
  • Windows Mobile SDK available targets Windows Mobile UI
  • Development Environment Visual Studio for a fee.
  • Languages supported C++ for native applications, C# and VB.NET for managed applications in  .NET Compact Framework
  • An Emulator is available as well as remote debugging.
  • Currently single touch screen support with multiple touch and gestures in development for next versions.
  • Java and Flash are supported.
  • Digital Certificates are used and required on some phones.
  • Limited retail support for developers.
  • Applications installed directly on phone or using ActiveSync and possibly Windows Mesh in the future.
  • Comm. EULA License


  • o% Current Market Share
  • Built as Open Source designed to run on any hardware, complete source code available.
  • Based on Linux Kernel
  • Free to carriers (with caveat of Google apps and content).
  • Cross platform SDK available for Windows, Mac OS X(intel), and Linux (i386).
  • Development Environments Eclipse Plug-in. for a fee.
  • Languages supported Java
  • An Emulator is available as well as remote debugging.
  • Currently single touch screen support with multiple touch and gestures in development for next versions.
  • Java is supported but Flash is currently not supported.
  • Digital Certificates are currently not supported.
  • No retail support for developers.
  • Applications directly installed on emulator but final target device installation is unclear.
  • Apache Software License


  • 6.5% Market Share (Q4 2007)
  • Limited Open Source
  • Based on Mach Kernel
  • License is bundled into the cost of the phone.
  • SDK available for Mac OS X free.
  • Development Environment (XCode) for Max OS X free.
  • Languages supported Objective C
  • An Emulator is available as well as remote debugging.
  • Multiple touch screen supported.
  • Java and Flash are not supported.
  • Digital Certificates are required for distribution.
  • Retail support for developers required, Apple takes 30% revenue share, makes apps avialable through the iPhone App Store.
  • Applications directly installed and updated using App Sotre.
  • Comm. EULA

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