Nokia is making upgrades in its Symbian operating platform in a move to regain traction in the mobile phone market, where it has struggled against popular competitors such as Apple and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion.
The Espoo, Finland-based phone maker, which recently revealed a new line of smartphones running on an improved Symbian 3 platform, is also developing a Symbian 4 iteration, which should be in handsets in 2011.
With these changes, Nokia hopes to lure in developers with its revamped OS, aiming to compete in the crucial apps market against the likes of the iPhone’s App Store and the myriad of apps available to Android-powered phone users.
“Much of the Symbian 4 architecture will remain unchanged from version 3, but while the looks of Symbian 3 didn’t change much from before, the next version will get a much upgraded user interface,” said Ian Hutton, Symbian Foundation’s roadmap manager.
The upgrades come at a challenging time in Nokia’s company history. Even though the company remains the world’s largest handset maker by volume and once held a reputation for innovation and consumer cool at the beginning of the century, it has struggled in the highly competitive smartphone market against the rising rise of smartphone specialists.
Nokia’s market share and numbers have been slipping under pressure from Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android devices, which have seen their market share and revenue surge.
In reaction to its stagnant financial picture, Nokia’s longtime CEO, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, resigned and was replaced by top Microsoft executive Stephen Elop. The shuffle is part of a larger regime change at Nokia that has found chairman Jorma Ollila and smartphone chief Anssi Vanjoki stepping down as well.
But the mobile phone manufacturer is taking steps to recover its footing in a field that it once dominated. Along with the new management, Nokia has tackled the task of updating its Symbian operating software, which it has transformed into an open-source platform akin to Google’s Android OS.
The current Symbian 3 software combines advanced performance and graphics, including significant multimedia power with HD video and HDMI output, with a familiar look and feel. Symbian 4 will build on this with a new user interface, which is said to resemble the sleek interfaces of iOS, Android and Windows Phone 7.
Nokia’s new line of smartphones offers models aimed to appeal to different segments of consumers — from an entry-level budget-minded phone to robust business-class devices.
Along with the new handsets and the revamped operating system, the company is expected to develop and push its own online services, such as email support for Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Communicator messaging as well as regular ISP and Web-based mail.
Nokia is also likely to develop its location services from its 2007 acquisition of digital mapping firm Navteq.
Steps such as new leadership, phones, software and services show that Nokia is attempting to turn around its fortunes in the tough smartphone arena. While the landscape has appeared bleak for the mobile phone giant, Nokia has a long history of reinventing itself, starting from its humble beginnings as a paper manufacturer in 1865.
With its new phones and more changes on the horizon, Nokia hopes the new revamped Symbian platform will excite and intrigue a new generation of developers and consumers that will take the company into the next stage of its history.