Beating a dead horse?
In this era of spin, you can usually be sure a football manager is going to be sacked the second the board of his club issues a press release announcing their absolute, unconditional support of him.
We were reminded of this phenomenon when a press release from Nokia landed in our inbox entitled: "Nokia reaffirms commitment to Symbian platform". It turns out this was in response to a release from the Symbian Foundation headed: "Symbian Foundation to Transition to a Licensing Operation".
When Nokia bought out its Symbian partners in 2008, it moved to make it a non-profit, open-source OS, presumably to counter a similar model from Google and Android. There was just one problem, however: all the other partners preferred Android and have, one by one, jumped ship, leaving Nokia as pretty much the sole member (and bank-roller) of the Symbian Foundation.
All this has happened against the background of consistently bad publicity for the OS itself. Nokia got pretty defensive about Symbian at the most recent Nokia World, and insisted that the latest version, as modelled by the N8, measures up. But we fear that the backward momentum of Symbian is now insurmountable, and Nokia will never be able to convince reviewers, developers and consumers that it's a viable alternative to Android, iOS, etc.
Nokia's argument is further weakened by its own commitment to a new high-end smartphone OS in collaboration with Intel - MeeGo. Clearly, with smartphones rapidly becoming mainstream, Nokia sees its future with MeeGo, and Symbian is being kept on a life-support machine while Nokia and Intel get MeeGo up to speed.
To extend that metaphor, every new Symbian launch or statement of support from Nokia feels like a new round of resuscitation for a project on its death bed. The founder and director of the Symbian Foundation - Lee Williams - jumped ship a few weeks ago, presumably in advance of today's announcement that his project is to be decimated and emasculated.
"The founding board members took a bold strategic step in setting up the foundation, which was absolutely the right decision at the time," said Tim Holbrow, executive director of the Symbian Foundation. "There has since been a seismic change in the mobile market but also more generally in the economy, which has led to a change in focus for some of our funding board members. The result of this is that the current governance structure for the Symbian platform - the foundation - is no longer appropriate."
"The future of Symbian as a platform does not depend on the existence of the foundation," said Jo Harlow, SVP of smartphones at Nokia. "The changes announced by the foundation have no impact on Nokia's Symbian device roadmaps or shipping commitments. The platform powers hundreds of millions of smartphones - including our own - and we expect to deliver ongoing support and innovation benefitting the Symbian ecosystem in the future."
So really this is just the confirmation of what everyone's known for a while - Symbian is a Nokia OS, so it might as well bring development in-house. The Symbian Foundation now becomes just a licensing entity for the code and brand. The Symbian Exchange and Exposition 2010, which commences in Amsterdam tomorrow, should be a real barrel of laughs.