DFRDs in turmoil

10. DFRDs in turmoil

Almost everyone involved in the first few Symbian smartphone projects underestimated the sheer amount of effort required to actually create products that would capture the public imagination and do justice to the potential of the underlying horsepower of the smartphone hardware and software.

As with every task of this nature – an extended effort involving large teams spread over multiple locations – the task becomes easier if there is a single compelling vision that inspires, organises, and maintains the enthusiasm of project participants throughout its duration.

At one level, Symbian’s vision was clear and compelling. As expounded by Symbian CEO Colly Myers at a specially convened “Symbian Focus” meeting held with Symbian’s investors at Oakley Court Hotel, Windsor, UK, at the end of March 1999, Symbian’s stated vision was

  • To set the standard for mobile operating systems
  • To enable a mass market for Wireless Information Devices.

However, these statements left a great deal up for discussion. Simply put, there were two dimensions of debate.

First, the “depth” dimension: how much should the Symbian platform contain? Should it provide:

  • Hardware adaptations for particular semiconductor designs?
  • User Interface frameworks?
  • Tools to assist third party software developers?
  • Specific applications addressing, for example, enterprise needs?
  • Connectivity solutions that ran on PCs and other desktop computers, to synchronise data with Symbian-powered devices?
  • Back-end network-hosted server-side software that would add to the attractiveness of solutions accessible on Symbian-powered devices?
  • Marketing messages that end-users would recognise (such as a proposed “powered by Symbian” campaign, akin to “Intel inside”)?

Second, the “width” dimension: how many different designs should be targeted, for different conceptions of the physical design and form factor of wireless information devices?

The Symbian Manifesto

The Oakley Court “Symbian Focus” meeting had been convened by Symbian’s investors, in response to observing the company’s performance in the nine months since the official foundation of the company. In addition to Symbian executives, the attendees were:

  • Michael Kornby and Anders Wästerlid from Ericsson
  • Mikko Terho and Jari Kiuru from Nokia
  • Jerry Upton and Bob Albrecht from Motorola
  • David Levin and Charles Davies from Psion.

Psion was also represented by David Potter, in his dual role as Symbian Chairman and Psion Chairman. David Potter summarised the context for the meeting:

The main purpose of the meeting is to identify the unique proposition of Symbian, compared to competitors and potential competitors.

Understanding the unique proposition will help clarify

  • The role of Symbian in the market
  • Things that Symbian should leave to its partners to do, rather than doing itself
  • A broader list of things that were outside of Symbian’s focus
  • The kinds of PR that Symbian should be putting out
  • The desirable culture within Symbian.

Colly gave his answer, which he termed “The Symbian Manifesto”:

[ SNIP ]

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