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Inside Symbian: the Platform Nokia Secretly Hates 235

Posted by Hemos
from the i-love-you-but-i-hate-you dept.
DECS writes "The Symbian OS runs the majority of todays smartphones, and is generally regarded as a solid platform. All is not well behind the scenes however. Here's why Apple ported its own OS X to the ARM architecture for the iPhone, why Motorola left Symbian for Linux, and why Nokia executives secretly regard Symbian with contempt. An inside look from Symbian developers: Readers Write About Symbian, OS X and the iPhone."
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Inside Symbian: the Platform Nokia Secretly Hates

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  • by ettlz (639203) on Monday February 05, 2007 @10:37AM (#17889204) Journal

    ...of an EPOC?

  • I own a Nokia E61 (Score:4, Informative)

    by thammoud (193905) on Monday February 05, 2007 @10:38AM (#17889228)
    While the phone is nice, the software is very slow and quirky. IMAP support is abysmal. I guess you can write slow software in any language.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DrSkwid (118965)
      IMAP on my n80 is good and the only difference I can see from my 6600 is that it even supports SSL connections now.

      I haven't worked out how to add self-signed certs yet so I have to click on equivalent of "accept for this session" each time I connect.

    • by Albanach (527650)
      Are you using the V3.0633 firmware? It seems much more responsive.
    • by dfghjk (711126)
      Don't forget about the horrible UI (worst among smartphones) and the terrible instability. The E61 is the worst of breed.
  • by squiggleslash (241428) on Monday February 05, 2007 @10:39AM (#17889232) Homepage Journal

    I thought the subject sounded somewhat exaggerated and more like Apple apologia.

    I'm pretty sure Apple ported OS X for the same reason as Microsoft ported Windows CE. It was their OS. They have complete freedom to do as they wish with it. It's a good platform. Why the hell not?

    As for porting open source efforts, as Motorola has done, again you're no longer tied to a third party (I say "no longer", but then I don't recall Motorola ever making a Symbian phone...), you have a robust, well known, platform with strong mindshare already, and you have no royalties to pay.

    Not exactly a situation where anyone "hates" Symbian, secretly or otherwise, more a situation where certain platforms work out better for certain companies.

    • by xoyoyo (949672) on Monday February 05, 2007 @10:47AM (#17889318)

      (I say "no longer", but then I don't recall Motorola ever making a Symbian phone...)

      They made three: the A1000, the A920 and the A925. They were all horrible. The horribleness of Motorola phones has nothing to do with OS

    • by jrumney (197329) on Monday February 05, 2007 @10:53AM (#17889386) Homepage

      I'm pretty sure Apple ported OS X for the same reason as Microsoft ported Windows CE. It was their OS.

      My suspicion about the real reason they are not opening the iPhone up for development, is that they haven't really ported OS X at all. They've got a UI for the phone apps that looks and feels like OS X, but there are no Quartz libraries or any other libraries that third party developers would expect, the apps they have are all hand coded and heavily optimised. The device just doesn't have the power for a generic OS X like interface. Apple haven't released details about the clock speed or the CPU other than what company they are buying it from, but a quick check of the company's website shows that they sell two processors, both running at less than 200MHz. If they haven't made a secret deal for a chip that hasn't been announced yet, expect the iPhone to run at the speed of a PDA from 5 years ago.

      • by DrSkwid (118965)
        I'm with your assumption.

        Why port the (braindead) dual MACH/BSD kernel hybrid to a phone ?
        It's just not needed if it's even technically feasable / possible.

      • Not enough CPU? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Monday February 05, 2007 @11:20AM (#17889704) Homepage
        The NeXT Cube had a slick, very usable graphical interface (the direct ancestor of Mac OS X) and a productive development environment using Objective-C. Its processor was a 25MHz 68030. There isn't any magic spell that has been cast to make programmers more stupid or make compilers worse over the last twenty years. It sounds like the iPhone has at least five times the processing power of the NeXT Cube. There really shouldn't be a problem running a 'real' operating system on it, nor should it require slaving away tweaking assembler opcodes by hand to get it to run at a reasonable speed.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jrumney (197329)
          The NeXT cube may have had a slick UI for its day, but you'd have to strip a lot of eye-candy from OS X to get back to that.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by daviddennis (10926)
            A 200mhz ARM is bound to be more powerful than a 33mhz 68030.

            Also, the tiny screen means a lot fewer pixels to fling around at any given time. A 480x320 screen has 1.5 million pixels. An PowerBook G4 has 1152x768, which is 884,736 pixels. It can run MacOS X just fine.

            This means that a 400mhz PowerBook had about 5x (actually almost 6x) the pixels of an iPhone.

            So if you think of it that way, it seems to me like there should be very little problem with running MacOS X on a 200mhz processor with a phone size
            • by SiChemist (575005) *
              I think you mean that a 480x320 screen has 153,600 pixels.
            • More importantly, the phone UI runs one application at once. The most expensive part of the OS X UI is the compositing (which is why it's done on the GPU). This and resizing will not be needed, dramatically reducing the amount of work required. It may have things like the genie effect for minimising, but I doubt it.
            • by Mattsson (105422)
              >>This means that a 400mhz PowerBook had about 5x (actually almost 6x) the pixels of an iPhone.
              >>
              >>So if you think of it that way, it seems to me like there should be very little problem with running MacOS X on a 200mhz processor with a phone >>sized screen.

              A port of OS X doesn't necessarily imply a port of the GUI-system.
              The PB G4 has a separate graphics-processor to handle all those pixels, with the CPU mostly running the OS and the applications.
              If the Iphone hasn't got a really hu
              • The 400mhz G4 actually handled all the graphics on its own. it was a pre-Quartz system due to its inferior graphics card (I think it only had 16MB of video RAM). The newer versions of MacOS made the system reasonably fast even without the hardware acceleration.

                Of course the newer machines with hardware acceleration were loads faster, but after Tiger performance actually wasn't half bad on the old systems.

                D

        • Re:Not enough CPU? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by sacrilicious (316896) on Monday February 05, 2007 @12:22PM (#17890540) Homepage
          The NeXT Cube had a slick, very usable graphical interface (the direct ancestor of Mac OS X) and a productive development environment using Objective-C. Its processor was a 25MHz 68030. There isn't any magic spell that has been cast to make programmers more stupid or make compilers worse over the last twenty years.

          No one's saying programmers are more stupid or compilers are worse. But operating systems and graphics layers have become much more demanding. Witness the fact that computers are STILL often "too slow" at the same routine tasks they were 10 years ago, despite running 100 times faster. That's WITH a heavy-duty specialized GPU doing most of the graphics.

          Apple is of course free to write a completely stripped down, optimized mini-OS for their phone, and such a thing might run very well on their chip. But the question at hand in this thread is whether such an effort would qualify as "OSX".

        • Power (Score:3, Interesting)

          by simpl3x (238301)
          Isn't that amazing! The Cube was a really cool machine, and here we are with more processing power in our pockets.

          Stripping down OS X, simply means gutting further down to a BSD core. Like a phone running Linux, what is so strange about it? It would be a huge mistake to create a stop-gap OS simply to get it out the door, when an optimized core is probably already available. The OS that is X should be able to run on just about anything by now...
        • by AJWM (19027) on Monday February 05, 2007 @01:11PM (#17891310) Homepage
          There isn't any magic spell that has been cast to make programmers more stupid or make compilers worse over the last twenty years.

          Really? Then how do you explain Windows?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by zsazsa (141679)
        There are tons of ARM CPU variants out there, and most of them aren't made by ARM Ltd. The XScale [wikipedia.org] family, manufactured by Intel and now owned by Marvell, is ARM and is currently offered in speeds up to 624MHz.
        • by jrumney (197329)

          There are tons of ARM CPU variants out there

          Indeed, but the specific company that Apple have announced as the supplier of their application processors for the iPhone only produces 2 relatively low speed variants, and there are no press releases announcing future faster products.

      • I don't think Apple is tied to any particular ARM manufacturer. I don't think Apple said who made the chip for the phone. I think the chances are that it's an Intel/Marvell Xscale chip.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jrumney (197329)
          OK, checking my facts, it wasn't Apple that released the info, it was PortalPlayer (now acquired by nVidia), and only rumour linked it to the iPhone (which still wasn't announced at the time). So its possible that its a higher spec chip like an XScale, and Apple have another new product up their sleeves powered by a PortalPlayer processor.
      • Why not? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Monday February 05, 2007 @12:09PM (#17890364) Homepage Journal
        With everything I have read, I would tend to believe they have ported the system. After all the core of MacOS X: Darwin, wouldn't take much more porting effort than Linux to an ARM architecture (assuming there was no hardware support previously). Once the core OS has been ported, it doesn't take much more effort to port the essential frameworks. There are probably a large number of features of OS X that have been left out, but does this make it any less "OS X", than Windows CE is Windows? Maybe they exclusion of the 'Mac' in the "OS X" reference was a reference to the UI design, much in the way Microsoft differentiates Windows CE and Windows XP? (supersition on my part)

        I believe keeping the phone a closed platform, at least in the short term, ensures that the phone is stable and people get used to the design philosphy. Heck, if you read the article you will see how some of the other phone companies are very careful of who they let write software for their systems. I have a friend who had a Palm based phone and it would crash once in a while during a conversation. Sure he had installed extra software, but the point is the average user does not make the difference between the phone crashing, or third-party software causing the phone to crash.

        Will they insist on controlling the access to third-party developers in the future? Maybe. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if they take the same approach as game console developers, where you have to get certified by them. You might be able to go under the radar and install uncertified stuff, but they won't support it. Though I will hope that they at least allow Java to be installed on the phones.
      • All I want are the decent IMAP (with SSL, of course) and SSH clients...

      • by daviddennis (10926) <david@amazing.com> on Monday February 05, 2007 @12:38PM (#17890752) Homepage
        If you watch Steve Jobs' presentation, you will see that when they talk about using MacOS X, the slide behind him mentions several MacOS X technologies, including the very latest.

        Besides, why wouldn't they use MacOS X? If RoughlyDrafted's sources are to be believed, programming under Symbian would be a huge pain, Windows Mobile would look like a defeat and PalmOS is years behind the times.

        I know RoughlyDrafted's author is very pro-Apple, but I don't think he's a liar. After all, simply looking at screenshots confirms that PalmOS is way behind the times, Windows Mobile has inherited Microsoft's ugly gene, and Symbian phones don't look particularly modern, either. So really, if you look at things impartially, or try to, his analysis seems sound.

        I would have liked to see him discuss RIM, since RIM's phone and OS look to me like the best on the American market today other than the iPhone. But I can sympathise somewhat because it seems pretty hard to find information about RIM's OS.

        Just looking at the iPhone confirms that it uses something very similar to the Quartz transparency effects and built-in anti-aliasing in MacOS X. They could build something super complex themselves that emulated these effects, or they could just use MacOS X. Seem to me their decision would be pretty simple. They just waited until phone processors and technologies caught up to the extent that MacOS X could run.

        Remember, MacOS X runs quite well a 400mhz PowerBook and an iPhone has a small fraction of its screen size. So is it likely that a 200mhz processor could give good performance on a phone? I would think it would be. And is it likely that a 10gb install of MacOS X could be cut down to phone size? Sure - alternate language fonts alone take gigabites of that, and drivers and built in applications take the bulk of the rest.

        Remember, Windows Mobile isn't really Windows; it's a descendent of Windows CE, which was meant to be quite different from Windows itself. So the iPhone's adoption of MacOS X could be revolutionary, as the first phone with a no excuses, fully powered OS.

        People who have used the iPhone praise its responsiveness, so that's impressive by any standard.

        D

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Dputiger (561114)
          My problem with RoughlyDrafted (and its author) isn't that he's pro-Apple, it's that many of his "analyses" are so fundamentally flawed. He clearly has no understanding of even the most basic tools of research methods or statistical analysis--or simply chooses to ignore them. I dislike seeing his contributions on Slashdot, not because I'm against his opinions, but because the methodology he demonstrates as "proof" in his various articles is (and remains) so fundamentally broken.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by daviddennis (10926)
            In the case of Palm, Windows Mobile and Symbian, though, I think he has good points.

            However, I would have liked to see a more detailed analysis of Windows Mobile since it looks like it has gained some traction.

            I saw a Windows CE phone a couple of years back that was so abysmal that it's easy for me to think of Windows for Phones as an awful idea.

            But right now Windows Mobile is gaining ground fast and an analysis that talks about relative cellphone market shares has to take that into account and acknowledge
      • I have an old Beige G3, which even with the original 300MHz CPU and worse-than-useless "Rage Pro", ran Jaguar with acceptable speed, on a 1024x768 screen. With the Apple phone, we're looking at a lower resolution screen, and presumably Apple has been able to make a lot more assumptions about the hardware that it can't when it comes to desktop operating systems.

        People over-estimate the requirements of Mac OS X because they forget the apparent "slowness" of much of it isn't the hardware, it's the animation

      • Nah, Steve Jobs explicitly said in the keynote that core libraries like Core Animation and so on were present on the iPhone.

        I expect that they will be cut down without any cruft, and rarely used functions and irrelevant (for a touch-screen interface) stuff removed as well. Never mind underlying abstraction layers that aren't needed either. But there will be libraries and frameworks that are recognisable as Mac OS X. OpenGL ES instead of OpenGL 1.4/1.5/2.0, only the required drivers for the hardware, etc...

        T
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by andreyw (798182)
      Microsoft didn't "port" CE from anything - it was a from-scratch effort targetting embedded systems.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Dan East (318230)
        Windows CE 3.0 was a port of the NT kernel, which is why the platform (from that point on) is actually pretty decent and stable. The core sources have been available for some time now.

        As far as the GUI, etc, I'm sure they did port various libraries. MFC was definitely a port. So it certainly was more of a port than a from-scratch effort.

        Dan East
        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Windows CE 3.0 was a port of the NT kernel, which is why the platform (from that point on) is actually pretty decent and stable. The core sources have been available for some time now.

          Do you have a citation for this? Everything I can find on Windows CE history that says anything about NT explicitly states than an attempt to use NT for the basis of CE was scrapped because the footprint was too large.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            Windows CE was and is a completely separate kernel than either the original Windows kernels or the NT-based kernels. 9x was too tied to the x86 architecture, and NT was (and is) just simply too large.
    • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman.gmail@com> on Monday February 05, 2007 @11:06AM (#17889538) Homepage Journal

      Not exactly a situation where anyone "hates" Symbian, secretly or otherwise, more a situation where certain platforms work out better for certain companies.
      Except that the companies who use Symbian do *hate* Symbian. I don't have any clue why the article states that Symbian has an "undeserved reputation". Its faults have been well known for quite a while now.

      The only reason why it was chosen is that the alternatives at the time were Symbian and WinCE. (Contrary to the article's statement that Linux was a viable option.) WinCE was a more powerful OS, but it demanded hardware to match that power. Symbian was not quite as powerful, but at least it ran on highly constrained devices. So it's no surprise that the phone makers tried to keep their prices down by going with Symbian.

      For a company like Apple, it does make sense to use their own OS as they have the necessary support staff and experience on hand. For a company like Nokia, however, they just don't see the software as important enough. Which is too bad. They make great phones, but consistently fall flat with poor (read: buggy) software implementations.
    • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Monday February 05, 2007 @11:55AM (#17890142)

      I'm pretty sure Apple ported OS X for the same reason as Microsoft ported Windows CE. It was their OS. They have complete freedom to do as they wish with it. It's a good platform. Why the hell not?

      The point in the series of articles is why Apple chose to port OS X instead of using Symbian, Linux, etc. After all, Apple doesn't use OS X on the iPod. Developing applications for mobile devices is not easy. Symbian (and Palm) have succeeded so far because their feature set is smaller and easy to maintain. Scaling up on features is harder. Windows and Linux suffer the problem of having too much and it's not easy to trim them down and which version. In fact, Microsoft did not "port" Windows CE. Porting suggests that the OS/program was tweaked to work on a different environmment, hardware, etc. Windows CE is a complete re-write and really only superficially shares the Windows name and look.

      Unlike Symbian a ported version of OS X could expand its functionality. Linux is modular like OS X but Linux's problem is with standardization. Each company must maintain their own mobile Linux which makes development harder (Nokia mobile Linux, Sony mobile Linux, LG mobile Linux, etc). Having to maintain their own flavor of Linux is not something that these companies are equipped to do. Thus supporting development is not easy for these companies. Apple needs only to extend their current developers to include a mobile OS X division. Hopefully for Apple, mobile OS X, unlike Windows CE, it's not a new OS but just a new set of APIs.

    • I'm pretty sure Apple ported OS X for the same reason as Microsoft ported Windows CE.

      Since WinCE is not in any way a "port" of Windows, that statement doesn't really mean anything. Heck, WinCE is not even what many smartphones use - they use Windows Mobile [msdn.com] (which is based on WinCE but offers the common Windows-looking GUI which WinCE does not include).

      That's one of the points the article was making, WinCE and Symbian are not full OS'es scaled down, but custom built OS'es meant to run on small devices. Th
  • by CharAznable (702598) on Monday February 05, 2007 @10:50AM (#17889360)
    The iPhone isn't even a smartphone... aside from the fact that Apple will obviously use its own OS, why the hell would the fact that the iPhone doesn't use Symbian be counted as "evidence" that Symbian is not doing well?
    • The iPhone isn't a smartphone only if you define "smartphone" as meaning "phone that runs Symbian". Symbian is doing great. It has 100% of the smartphone market.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dfghjk (711126)
        A smartphone runs 3rd party apps. There are plenty of players besides Symbian in the smartphone market but the iPhone will not be one of them.
        • Lots of phones run third party apps, including consumer phones (think J2ME applets/games). The definition of "smartphone" is pretty vague, actually, I don't know anybody except tech review magazines and the odd phone geeks that seriously try and use it. For the man on the street, there are phones and then there are PDAs, and a few are kinda both but not many people use them.
        • I can access gmail from the iPhone, right?

          I can make use of GCal.

          Those are third party apps.

          It will be able to install and run some custom applications just as the iPhone runs games today. Those games are not always written by Apple.

          How again is it not a smartphone?

          Now here's the kicker - Symbian platforms are moving to signed app model, where third party app makers have to buy a Verisgn certificate to run on the SYmbian platform, at a cost of hundreds of dollars per year. Sure, that's SO MUCH more open.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by marsu_k (701360)

            Now here's the kicker - Symbian platforms are moving to signed app model, where third party app makers have to buy a Verisgn certificate to run on the SYmbian platform, at a cost of hundreds of dollars per year. Sure, that's SO MUCH more open.

            The cost is something like 300$ per year, which is feasible for a developer/company with any significant sales. However, you can get your freeware/open source app signed for free [symbiansigned.com]. And there are no restrictions on J2ME apps. So yes, it is much more open.

          • by Mr2001 (90979)

            It will be able to install and run some custom applications just as the iPhone runs games today. Those games are not always written by Apple.

            I think you mean the iPod.

            If you want a peek at the future of third-party iPhone apps, just look at the selection of iPod games today: there are only eleven games, from just a couple companies; they're old titles with broad but shallow appeal, nothing special, and priced just at the edge of tolerability. Five bucks for yet another version of Bejeweled or Tetris?

            Now think about it from a developer's perspective. Have you ever seen an iPod games SDK? If you wanted to develop a new game for the iPod, how woul

          • by metamatic (202216)
            The iPhone is a smartphone like the iPod is a PDA.
          • A smartphone OS is one for which you can get an SDK. That includes Symbian, Blackberry and Windows Mobile. That doesn't include the iPhone.
    • Please give us your definition of a smartphone that somehow does not allow for the iPhone to be considered one. I've always assumed something like the Wikipedia's definition:

      A smartphone is generally considered any handheld device that integrates personal information management and mobile phone capabilities in the same device. Often, this includes adding phone functions to already capable PDAs or putting "smart" capabilities, such as PDA functions, into a mobile phone.

      Almost all phones today that sell f

      • Re:Then what is? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Mr2001 (90979) on Monday February 05, 2007 @03:10PM (#17893432) Homepage Journal

        Almost all phones today that sell for more than $50 are smartphones. The iPhone has calendaring, contact lists, a notepad, a web browser, a GPS navigation system, and so on, and so on.
        That is not a common definition of "smartphone". Go to any cell phone store and ask to see the smartphones; they'll show you to the Blackberries and Treos.

        If that isn't a smartphone, then I'd love to hear what phone on the market is one. What exactly can you do with a PDA that you can't do with an iPhone that overrides everything it can do?
        You can install new software on it to meet your current and future needs, without having to pay the manufacturer for an expensive development license, or waiting for an "approved" developer to write, test, and sell the app you need. If you can't download an app from the internet and install it on your phone, it's not a smartphone.
        • by Valdrax (32670)
          That is not a common definition of "smartphone". Go to any cell phone store and ask to see the smartphones; they'll show you to the Blackberries and Treos.

          The common definition is a phone that combines PDA & cellphone functionality. Anything else is really irrelevant.

          You can install new software on it to meet your current and future needs, without having to pay the manufacturer for an expensive development license, or waiting for an "approved" developer to write, test, and sell the app you need.

          By that
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 05, 2007 @10:50AM (#17889362)
    This is all nonsense.

    Sybian requires only an electric outlet and a love-starved female or homosexual lover.

  • by bad_fx (493443) on Monday February 05, 2007 @10:51AM (#17889366) Journal
    The summary seems to imply that:

    * The first link explains why Apple ported OS X (obvious IMO)
    * The second link explains why motorola moved to Linux (again obvious IMO)
    * The third link is some thoughts from Symbian Developers.

    So... if I want to find out why it's "The Platform Nokia Secretly Hates" which bloody link should I read? Bleh, bugger it, I think I'll just read none of them and complain about it instead. That's what /. is all about right? =)

    (Seriously though... the only bit of the summary that doesn't link to anything is the "Nokia Hate" bit so wtf man?)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Threni (635302)
      See if you can find a link that explains that Nokia hates a company it's the largest single shareholder of.
    • by akaariai (921081)
      Duh. Nokia sercretly hates. If there would be a link, it wouldn't be a secret.
    • I wonder if Apple would be willing to license the core? It is interesting that they seem to have now jumped ahead of mobile Linux in the interface department. Allowing others to utilize the base with a custom OS would help with getting applications. I certainly hope that they make a larger screen version for vertical markets. Allowing other companies to create products which Apple will not, or should not, isn't going to hurt their markket share.

      I would love nothing more than to have a Fujitsu slate Tablet r
  • no brainer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Clover_Kicker (20761) <clover_kicker@yahoo.com> on Monday February 05, 2007 @11:02AM (#17889486)
    I'm pretty sure there isn't a development platform anywhere that programmers don't hate.

    Remember, all software sucks.
    • by Kris_J (10111) *

      Remember, all software sucks.

      From what I've read recently, so do programmers, we're all crappy: All we have to get right is tens of thousands of lines of code every year or so, while other staff have to contend with such difficulties as how the binding machine works, or where that cupboard should go.

      Also, Executives suck (something about hubris). I'm fairly sure Marketing sucks, ask any engineer. Lawyers suck big time. And the legal system. Copyrights. DRM. Politicians. Activist Judges. Religion

  • Java ME (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Myolp (525784) on Monday February 05, 2007 @11:09AM (#17889566)
    This is why I think Java ME still has a bright future. You can say whatever you want about Java ME, but it is much easier to develop applications in that than in Symbian C++, and you can find lots of really good IDEs and Emulators.
  • From the article:

    "Some operators are requiring the phones to be locked for any apps not carrying a 'Symbian Signed' certificate. Which means, you have to pay for a certification process where you are checked by Symbian, why you developed the application and why you want to use certain capabilities on the phone, e.g. read and store user data, using the telephony APIs, or the WIFI capabilities etc."

    You can't really blame the OS for what some stupid American operators do with it surely?

    Other comments like frag
    • by Albanach (527650)

      You can't really blame the OS for what some stupid American operators do with it surely?
      Indeed. The author uses this as an argument against Symbian, but makes no mention of the fact that Jobs has stated the iPod won't run any 3rd party software [slashdot.org]. Of course that may change, but it's hardly a plus for the iPhone.
  • I must remember to quote that the next time I'm talking to anyone from Qualcomm, Casio/Hitatchi, Kyocera, Do Co Mo or Samsung. If I catch them while they're drinking, I bet I can make them spit coke or sake out of their noses. Globally, Symbian is more or less an irrelevance. It's only a worthwhile platform because it's used on high margin handset. But a numerical majority? Sake out the nose.
    • by rcs1000 (462363) * <rcs1000@gmai l . com> on Monday February 05, 2007 @12:02PM (#17890272)
      Rogerborg, normally I appreciate your posts. But this time, I'm afraid you're just plain wrong.

      * Qualcomm no longer makes handsets.
      * Casio is a very minor player worldwide.
      * DoCoMo is not a handset maker, it is the Japanese version of Verizon.
      * Hitachi: do they still make mobile phones?
      * Samsung *is* the third largest mobile phone maker in the world.

      Of all the world's smartphones, 95% run on one of three platforms: Symbian (Nokia, Sony Ericsson), Blackberry (RIM) and Windows Mobile (HTC, Samsung). Samsung, with the BlackJack, is a small player. Trust me, the world's best selling smartphones are in the Nokia N- and E- series. After Nokia, HTC is almost certainly the second best selling smartphone maker.

      *Globally* Symbian is not an irrelevance.
      • by radish (98371)
        How does Palm/Treo fit into this picture? I'm just curious - I've largely ignored smartphones until now and haven't kept up to date with who runs what these days.
  • Only half true (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bennini (800479)
    The article only describes about half of what symbian is all about...
    Symbian, after all, provides APIs to natively interact with the OS and many of the phones hardware....this native interface requires applications to be written in C/C++. This type of development is what most people (more specifically, those in the article) complain about. I have never developed a "native" application for symbian. The main reason for this is that the IDE's and environments which nokia provides are not available for OS X.

    I
  • I can't believe how lousy those writeups are.

    Symbian has grown a fair bit over the years. Its still as easy to use as ever.

    I've gone through the certification of apps a couple of times (for personal usage), and its ridiculously easy.

    There are 4 distinct variants of Symbian - S60v3 and S60 prior to v3, UIQ and the Japanese DoCoMo releases.

    On the more popular S60v3 platform (on new releases) there is a huge array of full blown office apps;- wordprocessing, spreadsheets, extremely workable GPS applications, s
    • yeah, it wasn't a very objective analysis, and opinions seem to hinge entirely on a few features. I can see memory cleanup on exceptions being a legitimate gripe, but the rest of it seems nit-picky. The standard C++ library is bloated, IMO, and while it contains some nice features, I would probably not stick it in a device where memory and storage are at a premium. I've personally programmed PalmOS, but never Symbian, and had plenty of memory related problems there.

      Speculatively speaking, even if Cocoa i
  • by semiotec (948062) on Monday February 05, 2007 @11:31AM (#17889848)
    check out the article list:
    Origins: Why the iPhone is ARM, and isn't Symbian
    The Egregious Incompetence of Palm
    More Absurd iPhone Myths: Third Party Software Panic
    More Absurd iPhone Myths: iSuppli, Subsidies, and Pricing
    The Spectacular Failure of WinCE and Windows Mobile
    OS X vs. WinCE: How iPhone Differs from Windows Mobile
    Apple's OS X: How Does it Fit on the iPhone?
    Why OS X is on the iPhone, but not the PC
    Apple iPhone vs LG Prada KE850
    Phone Wars: iPhone vs TyTN, Treo, Pearl, E62, P990, Q
    Smartphones: iPhone and the Big Fat Mobile Industry
    Cingular Apple iPhone vs. Verizon Motorola Q
    Zune vs. iPhone: Five Phases of Media Coverage
    Inside the iPhone: FairPlay DRM and the iTunes Store
    Inside the iPhone: Wireless and Sync vs. Palm, WinCE
    Inside the iPhone: UI, Stability, and Software
    Readers Write About iPhone, 3G Wireless Networks
    Inside the iPhone: Third Party Software
    Inside the iPhone: Mac OS X, ARM, and iPod OS X
    Inside the iPhone: EDGE, EVDO, HSUPA, 3G, and WiFi
    Macworld: Ten Myths of the Apple iPhone
    Macworld: Scorecard and Secrets of the iPhone

    if that doesn't give you the idea...

    However, none of this precludes the article itself from being an objective look at the Symbian platform. But it seems the writer fails to rise up to the occasion, and just delivered some hearsay from supposed "developers" and "executives".

    So I dug around a bit more, read a few more paragraphs from different articles, while the writing is better than average and more technical than most, it still seems to read like every other fanboy site, this case the fanboy being an Apple fanboy, which means that absolutely every-fucking-thing that Apple/Jobs does is the total awsomeness double plus good. If only the writer(s) could be slightly critical just every now and then to give the articles that sense of non-PR-ness.

    In the article "Phone Wars":
    "The iPhone is closer to being a micro-laptop using flash RAM than a conventional smartphone."
    This about a unreleased product with only a few grainy photos... then it goes on to bash all other "competitors" and actually just short of _praising_ Apple for not including 3G into the iPhone.

    Then in the features the iPhone has 4096 MB of RAM! holy moly. I understand that with handheld devices RAM can sometimes be used for both storage and running programs, like in my trusty Palm E2, but for all other phones, only the RAM is listed and not the storage-use ROM, and yet the iPhone is listed with 4Gb of RAM! I dunno, doesn't sound like even-handed treatment.

    • The writer is very pro-Apple, at at times the writing comes across as a Slashdot post level of writing (though at times it
      s very analytical).

      But that does not mean the articles can be of no value, despite the slant - the summary of the history of Symbian and Palm and Linux and WinCE is very good, even if motives ascribed to companies are more suspect. But the timelines are right, and the long letter from the Symbian developer is hard to dismiss especially since I have heard similar thoughts from other deve
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nasch (598556)
      I hadn't seen this site before, and certainly won't read it again. Here are some revealing tidbits, any emphasis and parenthetical comments mine, starting with the title.
      • The Spectacular Failure of WinCE and Windows Mobile
      • Microsoft avoided the term PDA, which was by then associated with the functional and sophisticated Newton from 1993. (Maybe I'm wrong, but I remember the term being associated with Palm Pilots)
      • Meanwhile, the Handheld PC form factor had discovered there was little demand for bulky micro
  • by QuasiEvil (74356) on Monday February 05, 2007 @12:25PM (#17890588)

    Symbian: the Platform Nokia Secretly Hates
    I'm pretty sure anybody who has ever had to work with that godforsaken OS (myself included) hates it openly...
  • The folks they had on there using it seemed pretty excited about it. I wonder what is wrong with the people at Nokia?

    Oh, wait... Nevermind.

  • by mstrom (1060158) on Monday February 05, 2007 @12:36PM (#17890738)

    As a Symbianophile (and a former Symbian employee) allow to point out some mistakes the author of the TFA has made:

    "Nokia's POS/OS. Sources close to Nokia say that Symbian is secretly regarded inside the company--even among high level senior executives--as a "peace-of-shit-OS," explaining that "Finnish people usually have a very coarse language.""

    Well from the POV of a SymbianOS developer, it's Nokia that have screwed things up with a very buggy "middleware" S60 layer where (the rumours have it) much of the functionality has been implemented by summer interns and there are some long standing bugs with S60 that make SymbianOS look bad

    "And of course UIQ has never been source code nor binary compatible with S60. But still you get the impression from analysts and media that 'Symbian' is one stable OS."

    Although they aren't binary compatible, the fact that they both sit on a X-windows-esque Eikon windowing layer means that their Windowing systems are in fact very similar and it's easy to cross-compile for both. Remember that UIQ is for the most part Pen-based whereas S60 is numeric-keypad-based (broadly speaking) and it in fact impressive that these two separate systems can be so easy to port between thanks to them both sitting on SymbianOS for most core tasks.

    "Symbian Signed ... makes shareware and hobby programming almost impossible ..."

    ... I'm sure /. readers understand the necessity for signed s/w on mobiles. Also the point (unquoted) about needed full certifcation is misleading - it just means the user gets are warning dialog like many modern OSs. The situation with J2ME midlets is much the same.

    "Some operators are requiring the phones to be locked for any apps not carrying a 'Symbian Signed' certificate"

    The biggest issue all of us in the industry have is the power of the network operators customising and locking users in/out of features - this will occur with any OS (and does already with PocketPC) due to he unfortuant power of the networks who control the industry.

    "Crippled C++ support They made their own home-cooked version of exceptions called Leaves"

    SymbianOS v9 (S60 v3+, UIQ v3+) can use exceptions (although they are Leaves under the hood) - happy now? The point TFA makes here is very uninformed as Symbian jumps through hoops to make it difficult for apps to leak through the combination of CleanupStack and Leaves

    "Limited support for multi-threading That was hardly even a relevant argument in 1993 but it meant that Symbian uses 'active objects' instead of threads in almost all applications."

    In fact, the cost of a OS context-switch is still high when every bit of battery power matters - battery technology hasn't changed that much since 1993

    "Bad development environment ... need to install Visual Studio 2003 to make it work ..."

    Carbide.c++, which is based on Eclipse and CDT, is the only IDE Nokia is supporting from now on and it's great and stable. The author admits "My first installation a few years ago" ... nuff zed.

    and there's more ... but I don't have that much time Motti
    • by w3woody (44457) on Monday February 05, 2007 @02:40PM (#17892938) Homepage
      With respect to "crippled C++ support" and a bad development environment--SymbianOS 9 and Carbide.c++ are relatively new. For a commercial software developer SymbianOS 9's support for exceptions is worthless if you still need to target earlier versions of SymbianOS, and converting a build process from Metrowerks Codewarrior or Visual C++ is a royal pain in the ass--which is why Symbian still sells Metrowerks Codewarrior, last I checked (about two months ago).

      So while these are good trends, in a way it's too little, too late: until SymbianOS 9 captures enough of the market that we no longer have to deal with earlier versions of Symbian, we can't use exceptions. And converting our build process to Carbide, while it may make life easier, is one of those apparent high-cost zero-reward projects to management which is highly unlikely to be given a high priority by management.

      But for new development--you're right. And if you're doing new development, it's far easier to get rolling on Microsoft Windows CE--whose market penetration is gaining on Symbian.

      As someone who recently moved to a project which is targeting WinCE (PocketPC and SmartPhone) and Symbian (UIQ and S60), and which is considering targeting various Linux phones, I have to largely agree with the analysis in the original article about Symbian. What the author doesn't point out, however, is that there are similarly egregious design decisions in WinCE and Linux cell phones which make them also somewhat problematic platforms.

      For WinCE:
      Extremely heavy weight applications. If you decide to use .NET for development or you decide to use a framework such as MFC or even ATL, you can easily wind up with a 1 or 2 megabyte application footprint. For a small mobile device, this may not matter in five years--but right now, that's bloody huge. Dot NET seems to be the favored environment right now, but that requires shipping the .NET engine which takes a fairly large footprint.

      Windows API doesn't map well to SmartPhone use. Generally most applications are, from a WinCE perspective, "full screen" applications. The WinCE layer appears to have full support for creating framed dialogs and windows--yet on a device that is 220x180 pixels in size, do you really need or want a 32-pixel title bar?

      Where this makes things really awkward is when dealing with switching applications using the 'back key' or when relaunching the currently running instance of your application. See, while the user sees just his little LCD display, what is going on under the hood is a multitude of windows layered in Z-order with the current display being the topmost window. While this doesn't generally matter, it is possible (and is a common bug, fixed by using something like .NET or MFC if you're willing to ship a fat binary) to create a circumstance where the current focus belongs to a different window than the frontmost one--leaving the user with the impression that the phone has locked up. It hasn't; you just can't see the window where your keystrokes are going.

      WinCE Smartphone "smart keys" menu ill-designed. Like all other pieces of Windows, the smart keys bar at the bottom of the screen live in its own, separate window. It's not handled like the Apple menu bar at the top of the screen on System 7: a drawing region that is not a window, which obeys its own rules. Instead, the smart keys bar is its own window, with its own z-ordering, created by a new shell call which, if not managed correctly, breaks the illusion of simply being a label associated with the buttons.

      Inconsistency in UI decisions between PocketPC and SmartPhone. One of my personal gripes: the UI on SmartPhone for most applications include a "cancel" button as one of the choices for dismissing dialogs--but on PocketPC, generally you only have an "OK", implied when you close the dialog by clicking in the upper-right 'close' box. It's a minor thing, but if you're writing code that targets both platforms,
    • >>"Limited support for multi-threading That was hardly even a relevant argument in 1993 but it meant that Symbian uses 'active objects' instead of threads in almost all applications."
      >In fact, the cost of a OS context-switch is still high when every bit of battery power matters - battery technology hasn't changed that much since 1993
      Say more, please? A thread context switch is simple and quick. Even a context switch for a full heavyweight process doesn't change the display's power draw or (shudder)
  • Eran = Fanboy BUT... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BoRegardless (721219) on Monday February 05, 2007 @12:52PM (#17890948)
    Eran is just showing how the "Linux" and "Symbian" OS's, are not the well thought out and modernized monolithic wonderfully easy OS's to program in that seems to be talked about in the press.

    iPhone in my mind is just the MacMicro, which is the logical extension of the Mac Mini. The phone function may not be the most important feature for a lot of users, including my wife, and her friends. My wife has 30 years of friends in her 1.5" thick paper address book, and her interior designer friend has about 3000 phone numbers from 35 years in her business. They both panic when they think they have lost their "book". The iPhone, for them, will be the reason to move the paper lists into the 21st century. This seems old hat to a programmer or heavy computer user, but lots of people just don't find it EASY to implement computer based records as an individual.

    Apple's iPhone is on the right track, and since it is totally software driven, applications are virtually free to implement actions free of mechanical button constraints.

    Apple does have a history of delivering on innovation:

    1. Easy to use interfaces
    2. Logical consistent icons/dialogs
    3. Programming ease delivered to developers
    4. Pretty good hardware all things considered, including the bum items (I've owned a lot of them)
    5. Hardware that is nearing 8 years old still humming along just fine on OSX.
    6. Recognition of what is needed to keep the user experience successful to drive adoption
    7. Delivering basically what they said they would on OSX

    I think that once iPhone is delivered, we will find that if an individual developer wants to implement his own application, say an HP 15 emulator, that it will be a straightforward process to get it certified and offered to iPhone users.

    Apple collectively is not dumb about involving developers, and with the volume of phones in the world, they know they need them for localization & specific industry, hobby & connectivity issues.

    I like Apple (& use Windows too), but think Apple is far and away ahead of the game in mobiles, because of the way they set up OSX and its developer tools.
    • by Mr2001 (90979)

      I think that once iPhone is delivered, we will find that if an individual developer wants to implement his own application, say an HP 15 emulator, that it will be a straightforward process to get it certified and offered to iPhone users.

      First, that's pretty optimistic. Apple certainly didn't make it straightforward to develop iPod games. If you've been developing Mac games for the past 10 years and want to move to the iPod, you're out of luck; it's a closed process, and you're not welcome. That's why there are only 11 games, including such ancient titles as Bejeweled and Tetris, and half of them are from EA.

      Second, suppose they do make it straightforward: you download an SDK, write your app, submit it for testing, and if it passes, they s

      • If you look at the potential volume of "smart" handsets and the potential 3rd party add-on sales, then it looks like the sheer numbers make the profitability such that Apple would want to sell add-ons.

        Sure Apple would take its cut on the iTunes sale of an iPhone add-on, but Apple is going to be well deserved to earn that amount based on offering solid software, easily and conveniently to each user, with an Apple guarantee of maximum compatibility with the iPhone (& Mac no doubt).

        I think we are pre-judgi
        • by Mr2001 (90979)

          If you look at the potential volume of "smart" handsets and the potential 3rd party add-on sales, then it looks like the sheer numbers make the profitability such that Apple would want to sell add-ons.

          Of course. That's the point! They want to sell you software; they don't want you installing freeware or writing your own.

          Sure Apple would take its cut on the iTunes sale of an iPhone add-on, but Apple is going to be well deserved to earn that amount based on offering solid software, easily and conveniently to each user, with an Apple guarantee of maximum compatibility with the iPhone (& Mac no doubt).

          Maybe so, but that doesn't justify locking everyone else out. A lot of software simply won't get written because of these restrictions. If they were just trying to maintain quality, they'd offer to sell well-tested software but still let users install their own untested software.

          Mac compatibility is a non-issue. Very few phone apps need to interoperate with a computer at all.

          I think we are pre-judging Apple to quickly with something that is not yet out or implemented.

          What's wro

  • The iPhone hasn't been released. Yet all the Apple fan boys have s3cr3t intimate inside knowledge of the system. What gives? They step-up to defend how Apple won't really lock out third-parties, but how do they know?

    Apple fanboys get more and more sickening the farther from reality they get.
  • by enjo13 (444114) on Monday February 05, 2007 @01:55PM (#17892144) Homepage
    I am the lead technical architect for Quickoffice (http://www.quickoffice.com). You might say we have developed a few Symbian applications in our day;)

    Symbian certainly has its quirks, but this article is based on a lot of information that is no longer correct or even relevant.

    1) The article states that no objects are deallocated on a 'leave'. This was true prior to 9.1. You had to manually push objects on a cleanup stack which would deallocate objects during a leave. However, with 9.1 the underlying leave mechanism is a standard C++ throw, meaning that the stack is unwound and all objects are properly deallocated (just like any other platform). The only limitation is that Symbian (for compatibility reasons I'm sure) chose to keep the throw hidden behind the User::Leave interface meaning that only integer exception codes can be thrown. You CAN actually throw an exception object with a normal 'throw SomeObj()' statement, but if it is uncaught the application panics.

    Functionally this means that Symbian supports 'real' exception semantics, although it is limited in its support for full blown exception objects. It's 3/4 of what we want, and with some careful planning (managing the list of error codes) it provides fairly robust exception handling system.

    2) String handling: Descriptors are a horrible convention. However, there is nothing stopping anyone from implementing their own more standard dynamic string class. That's what we did. A conversion operator allows us to automatically convert to/from descriptors with very little trouble (TPtrC is a wonderful thing). From our applications perspective strings are very much the dynamic strings we know and love on other platforms, with the Symbian descriptor bits abstracted away.

    3) Threads: The EKA2 Kernel has great threading support. Their use may be 'discouraged', but that is far different from not having them available. We utilize threads when they make sense and have had no issues. Writing a multi-threaded application on Symbian is really no different than any other platform I've worked on.

    4) The development environment is most definitely a problem. I've never had any issues getting the SDK's installed and running (although I have managed to corrupt SDK's on a few occasions;->). The command line build system is functional. The IDE's on the other hand, have been quite bad. Carbide 1.1 is an absolute mess, Codewarrior (the default development environment for years) is quirky, and working within Visual Studio is a largely manual process. From what I've heard about the new version of Carbide (1.2), this situation is going to be getting MUCH better in the near future (ahead of the iPhone release).

    Symbian has really come a long ways in the last couple of years. We've done a lot of work to make it a more standard environment for our development efforts. Outside of direct UI work, a engineer at Quickoffice has to have very little direct Symbian knowledge. All of the standard C++ mechanisms are available (with the exception of exception objects). About 70% of our code is directly compilable on other platforms with no modification (the rest deals directly with Symbian API's).

    There is even STL support available (I beleive Penrellian has a port up and running, we utilize stlport), which makes Symbian a fairly standard platform. It definitely has it warts. Many of the API's are undertested and rather poorly thought out. The documentation is often non-existent and the differences in emulation and device can be infuriating (sometimes it even breaks between two different devices). It is a evolving and ever improving situation, however. I hardly think that Apple has a 5 year lead over anyone.

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