Symbian completes switch to open source

Symbian handsets

The Symbian Foundation has made the code behind its mobile operating system freely available in a bid to boost its popularity with developers and handset manufacturers.

The ageing platform, acquired by Nokia in 2008, is the dominant OS found in 330 million handsets around the world, the majority of them made by Nokia.

But with mobile OS rivals such as Google's Android making the open-source model increasingly popular, Symbian is now following suit and any individual or company can now use Symbian's source code for any purpose, whether it's for a mobile phone or something else entirely.

Nokia signalled its intention to make Symbian open source shortly after taking control two years ago, and established the Symbian Foundation to oversee the process together with partners including LG, Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and networks AT&T and Vodafone.

"The dominant operating system provider out there is Symbian," said Lee Williams, executive director of the Symbian Foundation. "And now we are offering developers the ability to do so much more."

In comments reported by Wired, Williams also claimed that while Android is heralded as open-source, in reality it is anything but: "About a third of the Android code base is open and nothing more. And what is open is a collection of middleware. Everything else is closed or proprietary."

He added: "Open source is also about open governance. It's about letting someone other than one control point guide the feature set and the asset base."

The move coincides with the release of the Symbian 3 platform code, the replacement for the S60 variant found in the current crop of Symbian handsets.

Symbian claimed the move to open source has been completed four months ahead of schedule. "This is the largest open source migration effort ever," Williams told the BBC. "It will increase rate of evolution and increase the rate of innovation of the platform."

The Symbian code can be downloaded from the organisation's website from 2pm today.