The Symbian Foundation (SF) has announced plans to become a legit money making operation, as opposed to a money sinkhole with noble intent.
It seems that the Nokia Overlords have had enough with the Foundation's openness and has put in motion plans to transform the once-free OS into a licence-based system where - you got it - handset makers will have to pay to stick Symbian OS on their handsets.
Tim Holbrow, executive director of the incredible mutating Foundation, had this to say when discussing the Foundation's original mission:
"There has since been a seismic change in the mobile market but also more generally in the economy, which has led to a change in focus for some of our funding board members. The result of this is that the current governance structure for the Symbian platform - the Foundation - is no longer appropriate." Leaving no room for doubt that the open nature of the Symbian Foundation has its days numbered.
The Foundation's new charter will shift focus from strictly R&D to licensing of the Symbian OS. Within this plan, the SF has six months to pull off the first stage of the metamorphosis. By April 2011, the entire Foundation will be beheaded and left only with non-executive directors in charge of the licensing operations.
Of course there is no reference to stage two, because if they don't get stage one sorted out in time, the IP will be sent packing to Finland and R&D and licensing will be something left entirely in-house at Nokia.
It seems that despite the OS shipping in massive numbers, mostly in Nokia handsets, the mothership is concerned about the future and just how much it costs Nokia to keep its doors open, So it decided to take drastic measures. You see, at SF, money goes in, but it never comes out.
None of this is a surprise, though. With Stephen Elop moving to Nokia from Microsoft, the company is bound to tighten its belt a few notches and put everyone at attention as cutbacks and layoffs are looming on the not-so-distant horizon.
So the obvious question arises: how does an open-and-free OS lose to closed, licence/fee-based competitors? Good question... we mean, "good" as in "the SF wasn't a for-profit organisation that had to answer to shareholders".
In our perspective, this move might come a little too late. Symbian is losing share in the market as well as major backers and this will begin reflecting on operational income. However, opting for a licence-based model when there are so few takers for the OS might be a bit of a problem. It's up to Nokia to do for Symbian OS what Apple did with iOS, and only then will licensing work... and that is if the competition doesn't pull its thumbs out.