Symbian Kicking Ass



The results are in this morning and Symbian is doing great. 2.68 million Symbian devices sold in the first six months of 2003. But with royalties of only �10.2 million, they need to sell more than double this number of phones they are a viable independant operation, if you take into account that they lost �15 million in the same time period. With the numbers everyone's predicting, it looks like they'll be able to do this easily within the year.

The numbers looks really good on paper, since IDC predicted a couple days ago that unconnected handhelds (combined) were only going to ship 11 million this year. But in the same breath, IDC also predicted 8-13 million units shipped for Symbian devices in 2003 as well. That's quite the jump. I'll do the math for you: Symbian needs to sell 5 to 10 million more units to make those numbers.

It seems quite the stretch, but the press release on the Symbian site goes into more detail what's happening. Here's a quote by David Levin, the CEO:

At the end of H1 2003, 10 Symbian OS-based phones and variants developed by 3 licensees were shipping in markets around the world. In addition, 26 phones and variants based on Symbian OS are under development by 9 licensees (H1 2002: 16 phones and variants, 8 licensees).

Wow. 26 new phones coming down the pipe, most to be launched in the next 18 months! Insane.

Things are looking really good for the Symbian crowd. Even if you *love* Palm and think Microsoft is making in-roads with random Chinese OEMs, they're not going to be able to match these numbers. There's only 28 million Palms in existence as it is right now, and Symbian could catch that within a year if this growth keeps up. Really cool beans.

But here's my opinion about the main problem with Symbian right now: Developer support. Go to Palm's dev site or go to MSDN and you can see how a real develper community is developed and encouraged. Symbian right now is spread among the different manufacturers. I'm sure someone from Symbian will read this (Hi David!) so here's my concrete advice: Symbian needs to organize this development, create a website which acts as a neutral clearinghouse for all development issues. Whether you're working on a Nokia or a SonyEricsson, as a developer, I need to know there's one place I can get real support. Right now developing with the Symbian is an obscure art. Hell even finding information about the intricacies of a Symbian phone is many times impossible (why does my Nokia 3650 not give me more than 2.1MB of usuable RAM any more?!?!)

The sweet spot for development, because of this, is J2ME phones instead. But the power that's inside a Symbian phone could easily drive higher adoption of these devices - especially in the corporate market - if only there was an easier development path to take advantage of this power. Microsoft is going to make a *great* case for it's .Net Compact framework within corporations. Though that may not be the broader consumer market that Symbian licensees are aiming for, it's still a beachhead that Microsoft shouldn't have. There's no reason why corporate developers can't develop for the SymbianOS as easily as they can for Microsoft platforms like the PocketPC.

This would keep programmers like me employed and happy and continuing to push Symbian devices over generic Java phones. Anyways, Go Symbian!


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