Hoping to stay one step ahead of its rapidly closing competition, the Symbian Foundation has unveiled an aggressive road map for delivery of its open source operating system for smartphones.
The foundation now plans to release a new version of its Symbian OS every six months so as to keep pace with a growing number of voracious competitors, many of them selling Android-based devices.
The new plans will see as many as five versions of the Symbian OS being developed at the same time. The first version expected to be released, called Symbian 2, will be complete from a functional standpoint by midyear, with the finished product shipped by year's end.
Symbian 2, which will be based on the foundation's Series 60 release 5.1, will have updates every six months.
Company officials said that as the first wave of Symbian 2 products hits the market in the first half of 2010, functional versions of Symbian 3 will be surfacing.
David Wood, Symbian's executive VP overseeing research, said the intent of the strategy is to "time box" each release by fixing the functionally complete data and so including only features that can be delivered on time and at a "reasonable stability level."
It will be up to manufacturers whether current users of Symbian-based smartphones will be able to upgrade to the open source version, he added.
The accelerated delivery schedule appears to be coming just in time. Not only did Symbian lose share to proprietary vendors such as Apple's iPhone and BlackBerry over 2008, but most other open source smartphone operating system makers lost share as well.
Foundation officials said they will begin to open up more of the Symbian OS source code, making the product more truly open. By surfacing up previously hidden source code, all developers can now more readily fix technical problems and make the operating system work with a much wider array of hardware and software.
Nokia's plan to make the Symbian OS open source is sure to affect businesses that want to push more apps onto smartphones, and it could influence the role of open source software in general. InformationWeek has published an independent analysis of this topic. Download the report here (registration required).