Why I am upset at Nokia’s recent announcement to dump Symbian

I know Nokia has not yet dumped Symbian, but the announcements of last week were certainly the nail in Symbian’s coffin. We just have to wait for it to whither away and then we can proceed with the funeral. I am being a facetious, as it’s really not that dramatic, but as a recent purchaser of the Nokia N8, for the amount of 500 euros, I am a little unhappy with how Nokia has positioned itself over the last 4 months. Let me explain myself in terms of how events rolled out over those four months.

  1. I bought my first Nokia N8 in September-October last year. After trying it for a little over 10 days, I decided (with a little pain in my heart) to return it, as I had some serious issues with the browser, the lack of apps and the fact that Symbian^3 would be a jumping stone to Symbian^4 and that there would be a compatibility problem between the two. In fact, I wrote a post about this where I explain that the N8 is just not a high-end smartphone.
  2. Then, to my surprise, in October Nokia makes some very important strategic announcements, where they basically take care of my three issues. First of all, they stop developing Symbian^4 as such and will roll the planned improvements into Symbian^3, basically future-proofing Symbian^3. Secondly, they will push Qt as the development platform as it is a powerful and slick development environment and will link the two operating systems, Symbian and MeeGo, on an application level. Even Nokia states that they’ll use Qt for future internal development of apps and UI. Lastly, they announce a new and modern web browser in Q1.
  3. Based on these announcement I feel more confident than ever to purchase the Nokia N8. In the end, hardware can not be upgraded, but software can and Nokia is apparently very serious about doing so.
  4. A bit over a week later, Nokia makes another announcement regarding Symbian. The Symbian Foundation is ramping down its activities and Nokia is taking in Symbian in order to speed up development of the OS. In the article they state “Make no mistake, Nokia chooses Symbian” and re-emphasize what they stated before about Qt.
  5. At that point it certainly looked very hopeful for Symbian^3 users and I was very happy to have backed Nokia despite the flaws the device had, simply because I personally believed in the strategy (and I liked the N8’s camera of course).
  6. Now 3 months later, Elop gets on stage and basically announces that Windows Phone will be the future smartphone OS for Nokia. In the mean time, they’ll finish getting Symbian devices (that are in the pipeline) out of the door, they’ll continue to make improvements to the Symbian^3 software and UI, but the future is clearly Windows Phone.

As a result of this announcement, the investment in Symbian^3 will be less than what could be understood from October-November’s events. This in itself is a shame, but not the end of the world. I find it more worrisome that with this they have of course killed any chance of a flourishing ecosystem around Symbian. If Symbian did not have the “superapps” yet, then we can now be pretty sure that they won’t ever have them. As an example, I seriously can’t see Amazon developing the Kindle app for Symbian after this.

This means all in all, that I have purchased a Nokia N8 based on expectations created by Nokia only 3-4 months ago and that have shot down now. This doesn’t mean I don’t agree with Nokia about their future direction, but it does mean that I think they should have handled things a lot more cautiously in the past 4 months.

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