Business Today

Goodbye Symbian

Nokia finally prepares to bid farewell to the venerable operating system.

Kushan Mitra        Print Edition: October 4, 2009

If you have used a Nokia mobile device in the past 15 years, you have interacted with the Symbian operating system-from the basic Symbian Series 30 to the Series 60 of Nokia's high-end Eseries and Nseries devices. But if you have experienced other modern operating systems such as the one on the Apple iPhone or new BlackBerry devices, then Symbian, even its latest avatars, feels positively outdated.

So, at the recently-concluded Nokia World event in Stuttgart, Nokia announced that it will be moving on to Linux. The new build of Linux is called 'Maemo' and the first device featuring this new mobile operating system, the N900 is ready. I played around with the N900 at Stuttgart and the first 'hands-on' impression was that Maemo is a lot more capable than Symbian Series 60.

Maemo has been optimised for touch-screen devices from the very start, unlike Symbian whose integration into touch felt shoehorned. The N900 maintains the N97's dual touch and full-keyboard interface, something Nokia believes users want. The large screen size and the option of four customisable home screens makes it easy to use. What Nokia has also done is that it has maintained some lineage with Symbian, so a user switching to Maemo from Symbian won't flounder.

However, like Anssi Vanjoki, Executive VP, Nokia, admitted, operating systems never die. So, Symbian isn't going away. But the future has been charted out, and for Nokia, at least for the time being, it is Maemo.

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