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Symbian sets schedule for OS road map

Symbian Foundation pledged to release a new version of its mobile operating system every six months after it launches the first version later this year.

The Symbian Foundation committed itself to an aggressive operating release schedule Friday, promising a new version of the open-source OS every six months for the next several years.

Symbian is the world's most widely used smartphone operating system, but it has been losing ground to rivals like Apple, Research in Motion, and Microsoft in recent months. Last year Nokia, formerly Symbian's largest shareholder, decided to revive its growth by unifying the software and releasing it under an open-source license as part of a foundation of companies.

That plan is rounding into shape, according to Symbian's David Wood. The first unified release created under the Foundation, known as Symbian^2, is expected to be "functionally complete" by the middle of this year and "hardened" (debugged) by the end of the year, meaning that devices bearing the new software could start to appear as the year closes.

Symbian is setting an aggressive schedule for making improvments to the Symbian OS. Symbian

Symbian^3 is scheduled to reach functional completion around the same time, with a hardened version on tap for the middle of 2010. That means Symbian and its partners plan to make frequent updates to software, which could make it much easier to react to changing trends in how people use smartphones.

Symbian developers will start by unifying development behind the S60 user interface, relieving Symbian developers from having to choose between three distinct user interfaces. But the group is going to have to come up with something that tops--or at least matches--some of the newer projects to hit the scene, such as Palm's webOS, as well as something that captures the imagination of the public.

Moving quickly is good, moving smartly is better.