Symbian Needs a Smartphone UI
By Justin Ried, Wed Jan 07 17:00:00 GMT 2004

The company has UIQ, of course - which is pen-based. Sure, there's a subset of functionality available in UIQ with the flip closed, but it's small and nowhere near adequate for operating a device on its own. The only game in town for one-handed operation is Nokia's Series 60 and that presents a bit of a problem, both for Symbian and its potential licensees.

I'm sure there are a number of handset manufacturers - large and small - that would love to develop a Symbian OS device, but are wary of relying on Nokia for their user interface. Even those that have developed a UIQ device, such as Sony Ericsson with its brilliant P900, now find themselves between a rock and a hard place. How do they create another Symbian OS device and differentiate it from their current offering? With UIQ? Not likely. Another UIQ device would be too similar - and finding those unique selling points might prove rather difficult.

So what's a handset manufacturer to do? Right now it can develop its own UI. But it's unlikely to compete favorably against Series 60 - a product with five plus years of R&D behind it. Plus, that could further fragment the Symbian developer community - porting between UIQ and Series 60 is already a strain on the developers, something a vendor-specific UI would exacerbate.

Perhaps it's time Nokia spun its mobile software unit off into a separate company, as Symbian has itself done with UIQ. The other option for handset vendors is to go with another operating system - which Motorola, after releasing its first UIQ device, just did.