Alternative histories

28. Alternative histories

Fortune sometimes hinges on the smallest of root causes. Whereas the previous chapter summarised Symbian’s greatest hits, this chapter summarises Symbian’s greatest misses – the opportunities that, if realised, could have tilted the course of history dramatically in favour of greater market longevity and impact for Symbian.

As I write these words in 2014, Apple and Google are both seen as hugely successful smartphone companies. But this eventual outcome was by no means obvious, from the viewpoint of, say, 2007. Apple’s 2004-2005 involvement with the “Rokr” music phone project with Motorola had been a spectacular market failure. And Google’s Android initially seemed, to many observers, to be “yet another Linux phone platform”.

In the actual universe, Apple and Google each refuted the scepticism of observers as regards their smartphone prowess. But in other possible credible universes, different outcomes might have transpired. Very different outcomes. These outcomes might seem outlandish now, when I describe them below, but in these alternative universes, they might seem just as “natural” to 2014 observers as do the accomplishments of Apple and Google in the actual universe. What seems “natural” greatly depends on what we are used to seeing.

To be clear, I’m not arguing that it is credible that all of these alternatives could have happened in a single history. After all, several of them are mutually exclusive. Instead, greater Symbian longevity and impact could have transpired if just a few of them had happened. Indeed, maybe if just one of them had happened, it would have increased the likelihood of the later choices and actions going more positively for Symbian. Success would have bred more success.

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