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Nokia's S60 goes into stealth mode

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Independent analyst comment Tony Cripps, senior analyst at Ovum.

"Nokia's S60 Summit is one of the primary vendor-driven forums for mobile application developers today. Rightly so. Nokia can now claim over 150 million shipments across 79 models of S60 handsets since its introduction on Nokia's 7650 phone in 2002. Furthermore, that figure is accelerating rapidly, with 23 devices launched last year across Nokia and its licensees."

"Was it strange then that discussion of S60 itself was notably low-key throughout the event? A day and a half of presentations ensued, with web-based mash-ups and user experience forming the focus of much of the discussion. Meanwhile, Nokia's understanding of and willingness to support a full range of web-derived technologies on top of S60 provided the backbone for that focus."

"As such, it was easy to be left with the impression that the S60 platform itself is now seen as relatively unimportant. As a senior Nokia executive told Ovum, S60 - as he sees it - is now simply expected to be there. It's a given. (That's not to say that S60's value is any less great for that. It does, after all, provide a consistent platform from which to launch applications, something David Wood, Symbian Executive Vice President, Research, was naturally keen to remind delegates as the conference drew towards its close.)"

"Certainly those interested to hear about developments to S60 itself - to Symbian OS and the native application development and user interface pieces of S60 - were largely left looking for a forum for discussion and debate. Most obviously there was still no sign of S60's touch-screen support and the capabilities that segments of the industry perceive as being vital for Nokia to head off the iPhone and its amassing clone army."

"In lieu of S60 touch-screen updates, the S60 group chose to emphasise the one route where they clearly still have greater vision than their rivals. Where S60 itself and S60 branding dominated proceedings at last year's event, this year the discussion moved on to those places where the S60 platform as a whole can continue to enable innovation and add value. Namely in supporting additional, non-native, developer environments, typically with a cross-platform, web-oriented flavour."

"In S60's case this support is already extensive and liable to grow further. Reading between the lines, this can be taken to mean the addition of Trolltech Qt (which Nokia now owns) and Adobe's AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime), in addition to the already-announced support for Microsoft's Silverlight. Others, such as Ruby, also look likely to be adopted if traction on the Web is great enough to merit their transference to mobile."

"This is not the first time we have seen a shifting of perceived value up the software stack on mobile phones. Symbian's own recent stance on the core Symbian OS similarly pushes attention upwards allowing its licensees to differentiate. However, we had not expected the same phenomenon to affect the marketing of the main Symbian application platforms just yet."

"The fact that it has says a considerable amount about the overwhelming need to capture innovation on the Web for mobile ASAP and for Nokia and S60 to be seen as pioneers in enabling that transition. The fact that both Telefonica Moviles and Telecom Italia Mobile were on hand extolling the virtues of Web Runtime at the event lends credence to that idea and that smart mobile operators have already woken up to that inevitability."

"Nokia is undoubtedly taking a very broad-brushed approach in its support of web technologies on S60, some might say wastefully so. But like the Web itself, S60 provides room for nearly everyone. And in these early days of web and mobile convergence Nokia should be applauded for that."

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Tags: microsoft  telecom italia mobile  ovum  telefonica  telecom italia  touch-screen  symbian  qt  os  smart mobile