Nokia redesigns Symbian… but why?

The Finns add a new lick of paint to their outgoing mobile OS. Have they forgotten they’re moving to Windows Phone 7?

A strange development over at Forum Nokia, where forum VP Purnima Kochikar has posted an open letter to devs working on the Symbian platform. It’s strange because this is a letter that promises an exciting new future for Symbian phones starting this summer with a redesigned home screen, new icons, a faster browser, new nav strap and overhauled Ovi Store and Ovi Maps, despite the fact that Nokia recently announced it was dropping its in-house OS for Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7.

The letter also promises supercharged 1GHz (and faster) hardware and ongoing support for the supposedly dead platform. So, what is this? A U-turn? Or did Ms Kochikar not get the memo?

As it turns out, neither. Nokia has realised that while Symbian has lost its appeal in much of the world, there are still markets that want value. And Symbian. And support for their mother tongues. And these are things that the new breed of mobile OSs don’t offer. So, long after Symbian handsets are applying for a place in the Smithsonian, they’ll still be hanging out on in the shops of Turkey, Russia, China and India. And that – it turns out – is why Nokia is being reticent about when exactly it will stop supporting Symbian.

The letter promises Symbian developers won’t be abandoned. But this redesign feels more like Nokia trying to stop those devs abandoning its sinking ship. Perhaps that’s why what we’ve seen of the new design has more than an echo of Android about it? Come on, Nokia, make up your mind.

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