Nokia is bringing forward user interface updates planned for Symbian 4, which it has effectively scrapped as a separate future product. "You can buy a Nokia smart phone confident that any improvements introduced later to the Symbian platform, such as the user interface, can be made available to download on your device as well," the company said in a statement.
The move comes in the wake of criticism of its latest operating system and its flagship phone, the N8. Future upgrades will be rolled out to the existing OS as soon as they're ready, instead of users having to buy a new phone.
"I had the opportunity to review the user-experience improvements which were planned in the context of Symbian 4," chief exec Stephen Elop said in a conference call, our sister site ZDNet UK reports. "By standardising our development environment and focusing on the S3 platform, what we're able to do is bring forward a number of those improvements."
This brings Symbian in line with its competitors iOS and Android, which regularly add new features and interface improvements. It's particularly heartening that the company explicitly names the user interface as something that will benefit from this change in strategy.
There will also be more focus on its project. This OS was announced earlier this year by Nokia and Intel, and could potentially find its way to platforms like netbooks and tablets as well as phones.
Nokia will bring Symbian and MeeGo development together, using a platform called Qt (pronounced 'cute', awfully). This means any work it does on smart phones from now on will have MeeGo as well as Symbian in mind. Nokia says this will benefit developers, as they will only have to develop for one platform. Nokia also intends to support HTML5 for the development of its Web browser and apps, for both Symbian and MeeGo.
We've tried to have a word with the Symbian Foundation for its own take on Nokia's new strategy, but it hasn't come back with a reply. We'll let you know if and when it does.
We're delighted that Nokia is changing its development plans to speed up improvements to its software. If it can manage to sort out Symbian's user interface problems, we could enjoy the great hardware of phones like the N8. But it's still up to developers to create apps of the quality and quantity found on competing phones.