A couple of weeks ago Symbian, the London company that makes mobile phone operating systems for Nokia and others, announced that it had released a new development tool that makes moving standard PC code over to the mobile phone much easier.
The announcement uses a lot of technical jargon -- P.I.P.S. (PIPS Is POSIX on Symbian) will enable C programmers to more easily migrate existing applications to Symbian OS by providing standard POSIX C APIs on Symbian OS.
But the announcement is more meaningful when put into context of what is going on in the broader wireless industry.
For one, Apple announced its iPhone two weeks ago, which introduces an Apple operating system into the mobile smartphone market. The leading operating systems to date include Symbian, RIM's BlackBerry, Palm and increasingly Microsoft's Windows Mobile 5.0.
The Apple phone will be more like the BlackBerry, which has a proprietary operating system, meaning developers must specifically write applications for it. Symbian and Windows take a different approach and have much larger development communities.
Jerry Panagrossi, Symbian's vice president for U.S. operations, shared his thoughts on the importance of having an open platform in an interview with me late last week:
Since the sale of its first phone in 1999, it's been essential to have an open platform to foster innovation. If you look at the range of applications available on the Symbian OS, you can see as the result of our openness policy.
Panagrossi said the iPhone's announcement benefits all because it helps build awareness of the smartphone category. He said Symbian estimates that more than half of mobile phones sold in developed countries within the next five years will be smartphones.
"The benefit of having the announcement is that there's greater attention to the smartphone segment in general," he said.
Pangrossi also offered this critique of the iPhone:
The way plans are set up in the U.S. is that there is an expectation that the phones will be free or low cost phone when you sign up for a subscription. That makes a $500 phone with with a service plan a bit odd -- almost unheard of. It's a completely new high-tier category that we have not see in the past.
UPDATE: Panagrossi wanted to clarify his statement on the iPhone to emphasize that the cost was high compared to other phones out there.
He said: "The way plans are set up in the U.S. is that there is an expectation that the phones will be free or low cost when you sign up for a subscription. That makes a $500, 2.5G, feature phone with a closed operating system sold through a mobile operator with a service plan a bit odd -- almost unheard of. It's a completely new high-tier, feature phone category that we have not seen in the past."