Symbian Visit

symbian.gifI was invited to a Symbian Developer Pub Night run by Symbian Developer Product Marketing last night. It turned out to be populated by tech journalists rather than developers. The idea was to give an insight into how Symbian works and give some demonstrations of new technologies. I learnt a few new things even though I was working freelance there myself 18 months ago.

We were given demonstrations of three new technologies…

  • SMP on Symbian where more than one processor works on multiple threads. For those of you familiar with Symbian OS idioms, it’s possible to map the Symbian Client Server architecture onto SMP providing a way to map functionality onto multiple processors. 
  • Algorithms by Scalado, using additional metadata in the images, that allows very large images to displayed quickly.
  • Music processing using industry standard plugins.

Here are some random things I learnt while talking to people…

  • Symbian is currently trying to work out a model where anyone, even a lone coder, should be be able to contribute Symbian Foundation code provided that the coder has a sufficient standing/reputation. 
  • Previously, I couldn’t see a reason for myself to join the new Symbian Partner Network. However, I have learnt that the SDN++ forums, available to SPN members, are watched by Symbian personnel ’22 hours’ of the day and you are almost guaranteed a response to technical questions. I think this in itself makes it worth the $1500 fee.
  • I asked what was meant by compatibility promises between the existing and Foundation OS. Will this be source or binary compatibility? It turns out it’s too early to say. Symbian are going to try to achieve binary compatibility but if this proves impossible then this may end up being source compatibility (i.e. a compile of source code may be required to run old code on the new OS).
  • Nokia and Symbian currently promise not to break compatibility when a new version of the OS is released. This allows old applications to run on subsequent versions of the OS. Source code changes are policed in Symbian by an dedicated internal department to maintain binary compatibility. Maintaining binary compatibility isn’t easy because (in very general terms) public interfaces to components must not change with time. I asked how this process might change when the Foundation has to police changes by third parties. I was told the existing mechanism will remain in some form – even if it has to be wrapped into one of the new committees.

If I had to summarise the current state of Symbian I would say that, as expected, there’s general uncertainty of how the old processes (and people) will map onto the new Foundation. Things are still being worked out. Nevertheless, I sensed a general positiveness with respect to the new opportunities that the new Foundation will provide.