Symbian. Windows Mobile. Palm. Blackberry. OSX. Android. Maemo.
These are all mobile operating systems (OS). Some have been around longer than others. The new kids on the block are OSX and Android, and they are having their day. While Palm is an old platform, the complete revamp that has been executed on the OS has transformed its hitherto dated interface into something hip and up-to-date, just as obtains on the newer kids.
Symbian, the world’s most widely used mobile OS, has also undergone a revamp with the S60 5th Edition, but with not quite an elegant result as Palm. I have been “Symbian Inside” for the most of my mobile life, having used S80 (Nokia 9500), UIQ (P990, P1i) and S60 (E61, E61i, E90, E75) devices for years.
I have not hidden my position that Symbian as it currently is needs a serious facelift of its user interface to get up-to-date with current fads in the industry. I have even held that position strongly. But there seem to be those who think that Symbian is actually going to die off. I seriously doubt that. At least not anytime soon.
If what Nokia has pulled off on the N900 tablet-phone is anything to go by, those who have prophesied Symbian’s death because of what seemed Nokia’s inability to implement a fancy user interface can start recanting. Nokia has shown that they are capable.
We must note that the current fancy user interfaces are touchscreen based. Unfortunately, unless there is a massive change in the general direction of mobile users, the statistics till date shows that the majority of users prefer regular type phones with a physical keypad. In this field, Nokia still holds the fort.
I submit that Symbian is likely to remain the dominant mobile OS for a long time. Current trends suggest that Android will take the 2nd place quickly.
One of the advantages that Symbian has is what will help Android achieve this feat. Both Symbian and Android are licenced by numerous manufacturers, some of which are adding layers of services, functionality and usabilty to the underlying operatiing systems.
Already, we have multiple Android devices from HTC, Motorola, and Samsung respectively on the ground. More are on the way from Acer, Sony Ericsson, LG and others.
The other operating systems are generally mono-products – the iPhone which runs OSX is manufactured by only Apple; Blackberries are manufactured by only RIM, and Palm devices by only Palm.
The only other widely licensed mobile OS is Windows Mobile. The recently launched Windows Mobile 6.5 is a good upgrade, but leaves much to be desired. Hopefully, version 7 will bring this venerable OS up-to-speed and then we can see how things go from there.
One thing that is unarguable, however, is that exciting times are ahead in the mobile OS field. Whatever operating system you root for, the months and years ahead promise much.