This book shares a couple of heavyweight characteristics with the smartphone platform whose story it tells. First, it took me about four times as long to write the book as I had originally imagined: two years rather than six months. Second, the book has ended up around four times as large as initially foreseen. Both these outcomes reflect the rich, multi-faceted history of the Symbian operating system, and the large number of fascinating mobile devices that were built using it – not to mention the equally fascinating devices that were attempted, but failed, to be built using it.
As I have included more pieces of the overall Symbian jigsaw puzzle, the book has grown in scale far beyond any length that could be described as “a quick read”. Readers who are in a hurry are encouraged to move straight to the individual chapters that interest them most. The chapters in this book have all been written to be relatively self-contained.
Readers who just want to see the main conclusions of the book can jump straight in at Chapter 27, “Symbian’s greatest hits”, and follow up with Chapter 28, “Alternative histories”, Chapter 29, “The core smartphone skillset”, and Chapter 30, “Visions beyond smartphones”. However, I hope that such readers will find themselves drawn back to the earlier chapters, for a fuller perspective.
Readers can also choose to skip past the inline extracts from various Internet postings, product reviews, and news articles that I have included alongside my own commentary throughout the book. I have included these extracts for convenience, but in a format (with background shading) that makes them easy to recognise and, if desired, speed-read.
To my past and present colleagues from the Symbian journey, I offer my deep thanks for all their contributions to the creation of modern smartphones. I also offer my apologies for cases when my book brings back memories of episodes that some participants might prefer to forget. But Symbian’s story is too important to forget. And although there is much to regret in individual actions, there is much to savour in the overall outcome. We can walk tall.
Early reviewers of the book have commented that the book is laden with lessons, from the pioneer phase of the smartphone industry, for the nascent technology sectors where they are working – such as wearable computing, 3D printing, social robots, and rejuvenation biotechnology. The strength of these lessons is that they are presented, in this book, in their multi-dimensional messiness, with overlapping conflicting chains of cause and effect, rather than as cut-and-dried abstracted principles.
In that the pages that follow, I do choose to highlight some specific learnings from particular episodes of smartphone success or smartphone failure. Some lessons deserve to be shouted out. For other episodes, I leave it to readers to reach their own conclusions. In yet other cases, frankly, it’s still not clear to me what lessons should be drawn. Writers who follow in my tracks will no doubt offer their own suggestions.
My task in all these cases is to catalyse a discussion, by bringing stories to the table that have previously lurked unseen or under-appreciated. My fervent hope is that the discussion will make us all collectively wiser, so that emerging new technology sectors will proceed more quickly to deliver the profound benefits of which they are capable.