Symbian Partner Event

Symbian LogoI’m at the Symbian Partner Event in San Francisco today. I’m hoping to learn more about what the open source Symbian OS will look like.

I’m particularly interested in whether it will be complete enough that OEMs and hackers can relatively easily slap it on existing hardware. The full open source code release is still 18 months a way so I suspect details will be scarce but if I hear anything I’ll pass it along.

I’m live blogging this using the BoostBerry (an old BlackBerry 7100i with a Boost Mobile prepaid SIM). AT&T has no coverage in the conference room! Boost showing full bars.

Not much so far. AOL has joined the Symbian foundation and Google is showing off street view in next version of s60 google maps. The new map’s release is “imminent”.

Jay Sullivan from Mozilla spoke mainly about how open source changes a company’s culture and the challenges of managing a large open source project. Jay did let drop that Mozilla has started working on a s60 browser.

Gregory Gorman says not to write Motorola off. The new CTO is revitalizing the company around Android. Morale is up and there is an air of excitement at the company again.

Jason Parker, the Symbian kernel product manager, talked about symmetric multi-processing (SMP), I.e., using two or more CPUs simultaneously. He expects the first SMP handsets to ship in 2010 at the earliest.

Binary compatibility will be maintained. The SMP kernel will run legacy apps in a single processor compatibility mode.

Jonathan Webb, another Symbian Product Manager, introduced FreeWay, a new Symbian feature which will seamlessly switch between the phone network and wifi, including voip for voice calls, whichever is cheapest! Freeway enabled phones are expected to ship by the end of 2009.

Symbian will be getting a new multimedia and image processing architecture in 9.5 which will ship In late 2010. Among other things this will mean camera phones with near zero shutter lag! I didn’t believe it until I saw a demo. It seems to work by capturing 15 frames per second before the shutter is even fully depressed and retaining the one captured at the intended moment.

Charles Davies, Symbian CTO, gave more details on the open source roadmap.

  • What Symbian is calling “Day 1”, when the first code has been moved up.  Expect to see code by April. Initially only a minority of the 85 “packages” that make up the OS will be open-sourced. The rest will be limited to Symbian Foundation members. Membership price has been reduced to $1500/year.
  • Every six months additional packages will be released with the full OS becoming available under the Eclipse Public License by the end of 2010.

Regarding tools, the Symbian Foundation has adopted the open source Mercurial package repository and Bugzilla big tracking system.

In the final Q&A there was a question as to whether Symbian has any plans for an iPhone-like app store. The answer was not currently, that it’s up to the community to decide what’s needed.

That wraps up the event. I’m off to a Symbian sponsored “blogger dinner”. Should be interesting, more tomorrow.