Is Symbian on the right track to get a role in the future mobile landscape ?

The mobile landscape is changing; iPhone has stormed into the market and has a achieved a 10% market share in just 2 years. Google has entered the market with the Android OS. I think it is fair to say we are seeing the biggest changes to the mobile landscape since Symbian was formed in 1998 and an mobile application platform was created. It is interesting to see how big old Symbian is responding and to consider if the steps they are taking will give them a role in the future mobile landscape.

Symbian tells us again and again, that they have the biggest market share and is technical supreior and that this is what counts because it makes Symbian OS the platform the app developers want to develop their apps for. Follow the various Symbian web-sites, blogs, twitters confirm the focus is on on the technical aspects combined with a good portion of criticism of iPhone and Apple (and I would think soon Android too).

Do the argument about the biggest user base really hold?
Mobile phone buyers ask for an iPhone not for a Symbian OS based phone, few outside the IT industry knows what Symbian is. To make it worse, many of the people that has a Symbian based phone, don’t know it or care about it, they haven’t chosen a Symbian based phone, they just got it because they went for a Nokia phone (or one of the other manufactures using the Symbian OS). The fact Symbian is running on more phones than iPhone and Android doesn’t matter if only a tiny fraction of the Symbian user buy an application. I know very few Symbian users have ever installed an application where most iPhone users have installed applications so a big user base doesn’t matter if people don’t use the platform.

Do the argument about the technical advanced really hold?
Symbian OS is technically better than the alternatives in some areas, like running apps in the background, but it is well known Linux is technical better than Windows however the users buy windows because of the look and feel, an area the Symbian camp hasn’t improved on. The users want a good UI and I don’t think Symbian understands this, I know Symbian had an open brainstorm on the UI, but this is just to tingle with the UI not to fundament improve it. Smaller fonts in the status line really don’t make a Symbian based phone come near the UI experience of an iPhone.

A late me-too
I understand Symbian plan to set up an app shop. An app shop is certainly needed, but it seem to be a me-too action, Symbian should have realised this was needed many years ago, but I hope the shop will help to bring more and better Symbian apps to the market by creating a sales channel, the number of apps I actually have used after a week is very limited when I use several iPhone apps almost daily. I think it is clear to most people that the number of useful and new iPhones apps that appears weekly is higher than for the Symbian OS, so a shop needs to be combined with creating new appealing applications.

It isn’t all about applications
Not all phones are designed to run applications, but Symbian do not have a reputation for being fast or first to delivery new functionality the end users want – other mobile operating systems could be used for phones that donesn’t need to be an application platform.

I don’t believe the current approach shown by Symbian will make the OS a main player in the future – they will not disappear as long as Nokia backs them but just lose market share. Symbian need to understand all current Symbian phones are replaced within approx. 2 years, so they need to give the customers reasons to buy a Symbian based phone again – the customers have clearly shown the prefer a great look and feel combined with good apps that gives functionality they need.


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