Symbian upgrades its OS, fights off rivals

CTIA 2007: Symbian, the mobile OS company is expected to announce an upgrade to its OS to version 9.5 at CTIA, that hopefully will decrease its reliance on smartphones, its main patron Nokia, and also ward off competition from fast growing rival mobile operating systems, Windows Mobile and Linux.

The upgrade is even more crucial for the London-based company because large mobile carriers – Vodafone in particular – want to support as few operating systems as possible.

In 2006 Symbian had 76% share of the smartphone market, thanks to its very close relationship with Nokia (which owns 47.9% of the company, rest being shared amongst other handset makers), which had 56% share of the global smartphone market. Nokia’s E-Series and N-Series phones have been particularly popular in non-US markets. But competition from Windows Mobile and Linux is increasing according to ABI Research, a market research company. Symbian’s share of the smart phone market is going to decline to around 46% by 2012.

[ABI] Research director Stuart Carlaw remarks that, “It is not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’ Linux will have an impact upon this market. “

With the new OS upgrade, Symbian is trying to increase its appeal, betting that it can sneak its way into more mainstream handsets (called feature handsets in industry parlance.) The new OS is going to make more efficient use of memory, battery and other resources, making it more flexible for use in mainstream phones.

The new OS will allow Wi-Fi 3G roaming. Push-email and VoIP run over WiFi when in the office and automatically switch to 3G when on the move. In addition, Symbian has added real-time networking ensures that VoIP is not interrupted when other IP-based services, such as web browsing or push email, make a connection.

The new version will give multimedia features a major boost. The camera features would now include image orientation, image distortion correction auto-focus such as red-eye reduction – 35 improvements you find in a typical standalone digital camera.

The system will have better connectivity with home computers, via wireless and The new OS upgrade supports multi-standard digital TV (DVB-H, ISDB-T) and standardized LBS.