The Western blogosphere and their constant negativity concerning Nokia.
I think all of us here have borne witness to this, major US/UK blogs and their stance towards Nokia, Symbian and anything smartphone related originating outside of the US, the exceptions being HTC and Samsung for reasons obvious to anyone with eyes. The question is why? Why is it that Nokia get constantly lambasted for doing ANYTHING or mocked for coming to the table too late while the others are constantly praised for doing admittedly mundane things (Facetime anyone?) . This post/rant is intended to look at common criticisms leveled at Nokia and by proxy, Symbian, each of which will be evaluated as best as possible by yours truly. Let’s get started then!
1. Symbian is old antiquated technology, it should be dropped.
Easily one of the most common criticisms leveled Nokia and Symbian’s way and easily the most simple to refute. Many mention that Symbian OS is old and has no place in the current web-connected, social network driven world currently infesting the western world. Taking a quick look at Symbian’s history and the roots of the OS, one would be inclined to agree that some of the basis of this argument has real world fact associated with it.
The EKA2 kernel used in current iterations of Symbian and responsible for controlling the interactions of the software with the underlying software was conceived of in 1998 and came into being by 2003. That’s not at all to say that the kernel in its current implementation is the same as it was then, but the idea that devices have limiting CPU, memory and other similar limitations was a major part of the kernel design. This as opposed to the somewhat less limited kernels being used in Android (Linux 2.6.xx kernel) and iOS (based on Mach micro-kernel) which were initially built for larger, less power-dependent computing solutions.
Oddly enough the Mach3.0 micro-kernel used in Mac OS X and by proxy iOS was completed in 1994 while the Linux 2.6.xx branch came into being in 2003. By this logic, Android should be the newest of them all and subsequently the best ight? As we’ve seen time and again, new does not necessarily equal good with Windows Mobile 6.x based on the CE 5 kernel being nigh on terrible for mobile devices.
EKA2 also allows things that other mobile kernels, specifically iOS cannot, in particular pre-emptive, priority based multitasking without requiring each thread/process to relinquish CPU time in addition to tight regulation of CPU runtime and API calls.
Detractors for this argument would say that it’s the way in which the user interacts with the interface that matters most and that Symbian is the worst of the big 3 when it comes to the new hotness, touchscreen devices. That is a valid argument with the Menu and soft-key based interaction method used in legacy Symbian devices S60 v3.x translating very poorly to good touch experience as demonstrated by S60v5. iOS on the other hand was built for direct-interaction and less dependent on hardware buttons, abhorring them in all but the most necessary of circumstances.On the other hand, Android was initially conceived for Blackberry-esque devices and as such maintains a degree of dependency on hardware buttons, Menu, Back, Home and occasionally search. The interaction methods differ significantly between the 3 and for touch interfaces one could argue that iOS is distinctly superior to the other 2.
The differences between the other two interaction methods are less clearly stated and arguably neither is significantly BETTER for most users. Clearly both have moved towards the newer direct-interaction methods with S^3 and newer versions of Android but the legacy underpinnings remain.
“Old” is relative and in a great many cases, having legacy code or kernels is not necessarily a bad thing. It is the implementation that counts most.
2. There are no apps for Symbian
I’ll start with the blatantly obvious caveat that apps do not make the OS or the platform but they damn sure add to it. That said the app situation with Symbian has been in dire straights for a number of years. Initial moves with Ngage 1.0, Download and Ngage 2.0 were almost universally derided in part because of issues with both the carriers and less than stellar implementations. That said, the idea was there and it took a brilliant effort by Apple before carriers were in any way willing to ALLOW such use of their networks, much less one that they stood to benefit in no way from. Applications have always been available across the internet and in repositories like GetJar and millions of forums online for sideloading applications to Nokia devices. The thing is, most users didn’t know or care about how they could do this in the first place and Apple’s effort was admittedly the best implementation of a centralized, on-device store. The Android store followed soon after the apple store and then the Ovi store 1.0 which in reality should have been called a 0.5 beta version when first released (it really was bad). In time the store client has improved but the situation with developers did not and the number of quality apps available for the platform has stagnated. The question is why?
Devs were put off by two things, the lack of an easy signing/submission/distribution pipeline and the lack of good, easy-to-use tools and IDE’s. Nokia realized this and made significant moves towards rectifying this issue by acquiring Trolltech and leveraging the Qt environment to allow for easier app development across multiple hardware and software platforms. Additions to the Qt portfolio under Nokia’s stewardship have been almost unanimously praised and the streamlining and ease of use of the submission pipeline have grown significantly over their prior implementations. Detractors would claim that all of this has done little to change the current devices and applications on the market and they would be right, to an extent. Before S^3 devices came to be, there was little to no market utilization of Qt even if the devices supported it. Furthermore, they would claim that Nokia’s platform seemingly lacked halo devices to draw developer and consumer attention. While I can in no way vouch for the attention of the consumers, it’s blatantly obvious that developers are interested in Qt. Most recent estimates place the number of downloads of the SDK in excess of 1.5 million since it’s release in June of this year. These figures tell a startling tale, interest in Nokia’s platform has grown, even if the end results have yet to be seen.
A number of issues plagued App development for Nokia devices including different hardware platforms, OS versions, OS types, distribution methods and coding/testing difficulties. Nokia has responded to nigh-on all of these and has put together a plan to tie together all of their devices and platforms under a single unified Qt umbrella.
Now that we’ve caught our collective breath!! 🙂
Part 2 of this rant will cover some of the other issues and criticisms leveled at Nokia and will hopefully paint a somewhat brighter picture of their future direction, regardless of what the mainstream media (falsely) may say.