Indian publication Deccan Herald reported that Nokia’s move away from Symbian OS has put a “tremendous pressure” on independent developers, who have previously built their business on supporting this platform. While there will be a two-year period while Nokia phases-out Symbian OS in favour of Microsoft’s Windows Phone, in order to maintain their business it will be necessary to retrain staff to support platforms such as Android, with the costs and loss of revenue this will incur in the interim. It was noted that Symbian OS is a more difficult platform to programme than some of the alternatives, which means that a significant time has been built up creating a skills base that cannot now be transferred to another platform.
The Deccan Herald cites a “mid-level” employee with India-based consulting firm Infosys, who warned: “this will hit hard many small companies, which barely manage to break even. Besides, the uncertainty of doing business on a new platform, they will need at least two years to catch up with other companies already doing business on other platforms.”
The biggest issue for Nokia (and subsequently Microsoft) is that developers choosing which platform to migrate to now are most likely to pick Android, which will offer a similar mass-market customer base to Symbian OS, and which already has a significant amount of momentum both in India and internationally. This will both reduce support for Symbian OS in the interim, and lead to a weakened developer community for Nokia’s Windows Phone devices when they finally reach the market.
While Apple’s iOS has gained a significant amount of mindshare in developed markets, in more price-sensitive territories such as India and China the dominant smartphone position has been achieved by Nokia with its Symbian OS devices. Due to the large customer bases in these countries, this has also created an appealing market for domestic developers. In contrast, Windows Phone has no significant presence in these markets, and there is no indication that its current supporting vendors such as HTC, LG Electronics and Samsung are intending to use the platform in mid-tier devices – these companies all have Android-powered smartphones for mass-market consumers.
Nokia has said it intends shipping an additional 150 million Symbian OS-based devices, but has also clearly identified that the platform is nearing the end of its life. However, it has not clearly identified when the final devices using the platform will ship, leading to an understandable uncertainty among the developer community.