updated 05:50 pm EDT, Mon July 12, 2010
Analyst warns Symbian to lose share in new study
Symbian's steady decline in phone market share is about to get worse, Gartner analyst Nick Jones warned in an update this weekend. New estimates due at the end of July should show the trend "accelerating" and that Symbian now has a finite lifespan at the top of the phone arena. He expected that the OS would still lead for another few years but would be overtaken by Apple's iPhone and especially Google's Android platform.
Jones pinned the anticipated drops on what he saw as a fundamentally flawed experience that didn't compare well to Android or iOS. While he saw some improvement in the design with Symbian^3, most of the features were lambasted as changes that are either catch-up features or don't actually have a bearing on how users will see the OS, such as audio policy packages, a call for an open cloud manifesto and better internal structure. None of these would necessarily improve the user experience.
"I think the Symbian foundation is just re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic and ignoring the Android iceberg ahead," the analyst wrote.
Symbian^4 is due to have a genuinely new experience in 2011, but virtually the entire health of the open-source project is riding on the project and its uncertain future. If it fails, the company won't have much else to go on, according to Jones.
Any significant failure at Symbian will have severe repercussions for Nokia, which remains Symbian's near-exclusive customer. It has already been losing ground ever since 2007 and would have no fallback OS for some of its devices if Symbian collapsed. The Intel co-developed MeeGo OS would work for some smartphones, but Nokia would have no further development for the platforms it expects to support its low- and mid-range devices. Samsung and Sony Ericsson also still depend slightly on Symbian to fill out their lineups.