By 2005, there will be about 1.5 billion mobile phones in use worldwide. The convergence of voice and data (cell phone and PDA) into a single device has created the need for a new kind of operating system. In 1998, a consortium of cell phone manufacturers formed Symbian to develop and market an open standard next generation cell phone operating system. Symbian integrates phone and PDA functionality and provides advanced features such as MMS, Internet connectivity, Bluetooth support, etc. Symbian has a component-based architecture and supports open standards. It has international support and provides a customizable user interface framework.
Although Symbian’s product is technically superior and is backed by 80% of cell phone manufacturers, the success of Symbian depends on the willingness of network providers to upgrade to 3G (3rd Generation) networks and take full advantage of Symbian’s features. The industry is ready for a new generation operating system to provide new features and network providers are eager to develop new revenue streams. However, Symbian faces serious competitive threats, especially from Microsoft.
The success of Symbian depends on three factors: the timeliness of network providers in upgrading their networks to provide 3G services, the strength of the consortium members to battle the Microsoft threat, and the ability of Symbian to attract developers to create new applications for Symbian, so that it will generate enough consumer demand to become an industry standard.
Introduction In 1998, a consortium of companies (Nokia, Motorola, Panasonic, Sony, Ericsson, Siemens, and Psion) jointly formed Symbian to develop and market a standard, open next generation cell phone operating system. Cell phone manufacturers realized then that the current generation of mobile phone operating systems will not be able to support applications required in 3G (3rd Generation) mobile telephony networks.
Currently, most mobile telephony networks are second generation (2G) networks, using GSM (TDMA) and CDMA for digital encoding, and allow for high quality voice communications and limited data communications (e.g. SMS). Networks are evolving from today’s circuit-switched 2G mobile phones to packet-switched 2.5G and 3G networks. Third Generation (3G) mobile telephony networks will support high-speed data transmission and enable live wireless video and audio streaming. However, network operators must upgrade their infrastructure to enable 3G services and this is likely to take some time. In this transition period, network operators are upgrading to 2.5G networks by implementing GPRS (General Packet Radio Service). GPRS enables enhanced services and a GPRS rollout is inexpensive and fast. GPRS allows mobile phones to have a continuous IP connection, thus, allowing service providers to push messages to users, install software updates as required, etc.
Symbian is a mobile phone operating system designed to support services on 2.5G and 3G mobile telephony networks. Symbian is a 32-bit native IP-based, multi-tasking operating system designed for portable, battery-powered, mobile phones. The New Mobile Revolution The Symbian OS integrates communications and messaging software with the original phone software. The three core functions of Symbian: (1) contacts database, (2) data messaging, and (3) voice calls, interact smoothly in Symbian OS phones.
The first open Symbian OS phones – the Sony Ericsson P800 Smartphone, the Nokia 9200 Series and the Nokia 7650 – are highly differentiated from one another, illustrating the flexibility of Symbian OS in accommodating the ideas of mobile phone manufacturers on how the software should operate in their mobile phones. Not only do these Symbian OS phones have very different form factors, they also have very different user interfaces (UIs). These UIs are each different again from the UI on the PDAs created by Psion, such as the Psion 5mx and the Revo, from early versions of Symbian OS. The flexibility of the Symbian OS allows mobile phone manufacturers to customize the operating system on their phones.
Nokia and Sony Ericsson’s products are examples of ‘one-box solutions’, where one device replaces two devices: the user’s phone, and the user’s Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). Two-box solutions, in which a phone communicates with a PDA by means of Infrared and/or Bluetooth, are also available. However, the early market experience of Symbian OS phones confirms that users appreciate the convenience of only having to carry one device.
The Symbian Technology Architecture The Symbian operating system is designed to be hardware independent, extendable and designed to support open standards. Symbian is component-based to facilitate the addition and removal of components, thus allowing for changes to the operating system as the telecommunications industry moves to 3G networks. Fig. 1.0 – Symbian Technology Architecture (created based on the description of Symbian from “Symbian OS Version 7 Functional Description” Whitepaper, March 2002, from the Symbian web site: http://www.symbian.com)