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No Symbian^4: Nokia

Nokia has made a significant change to the software roadmap by opting for iterative updates to Symbian^3, rather than waiting for a Symbian^4 release.

Nokia has made a significant change to the software roadmap it outlined late in 2009, shifting focus from a major user interface (UI) overhaul in a Symbian^4 release and instead planning to introduce the same changes over several iterative firmware updates to Symbian^3 devices.

An example of the UI overhaul that was expected in Symbian^4. (Credit: Symbian Foundation)

According to the official Symbian website, Symbian^4 was expected to have been completed by the end of this year, with devices to ship in 2011. It was also expected to incorporate Direct UI, "a complete makeover of the touch UI".

Nokia's head of APAC developer relations Kenny Mathers told CNET Australia that the company had stopped referring to Symbian^4 internally, with future enhancements to the user experience to be delivered over-the-air to current Symbian^3 devices or out of the box for future phones.

"Once we introduce a new feature [to the Symbian platform] we can push that feature to someone who has an N8 or buys a C7. They're going to be able to get the features the same as a consumer that buys a device in 12 months time," Mathers said. "[This change] is good from a consumer perspective as it means we'll be able to roll these changes out sooner."

This simplification of firmware updates coincides with Nokia's push to encourage developers to start working with its Qt application framework, a move the company hopes will simplify the development process for third-party apps. This framework makes it possible to create a web-enabled application for use on all Nokia devices running Series v3.2 and onwards. Symbian^3 devices, like the N8, ship with the Qt software layer pre-installed, as will MeeGo devices in 2011, while older devices will download the framework automatically when the user chooses to download an app via the Ovi Store that requires Qt.

Nokia plans to "eat its own dog food", according to Mathers, and redevelop a number of its core applications using Qt, including Ovi Music, Ovi Maps, Ovi Messaging and the Ovi Store experience.

Qt is an application framework that creates a bridge between the operating system of a device and the user interface, allowing applications compatible with Qt to run on a number of compatible platforms. For mobile devices this includes Nokia's Symbian, Maemo and MeeGo projects, plus support for Windows Mobile CE.