I’ve had a bunch of S60 phones in the past, and my current day to day phone is an E61. I like the platform, I like the multitasking interface, recent phones I even like the design. But I’ve had to start moving away from S60 just because it isn’t a viable platform any more. While that probably sounds sensationalist, this is what I mean:
I’ve had three conversations with entrepreneurs over the last month where they’ve said their application works on BREW, Windows Mobile, Palm, and they even had a J2ME client that does some stuff if all else fails. My normal question is “No Symbian?” And they always say something like “We’re working on it, we just haven’t quite gotten the application to behave correctly yet” or “We still have a few things we’re trying to figure out to get it working”. And so far it hasn’t been because it was started last, it’s because their talented developers (who many times are just picking up mobile for the first time) just can not get applications working on Symbian.
And it’s really starting to show in terms of the applications available. I was bitching yesterday about Ruby already, and I tried out VNC for S60 yesterday and had a hard time with that as well (it installed, just didn’t really work). It used to be that I was constantly surprised by the stuff I could do with my S60: “Wow, there’s a bluetooth LAN bridge that works with Linux for the S60, that’s insane!” Now I get surprised more often by what I can’t do than what I can. Applications that I expect to work that for some reason won’t install, or have subtle bugs with my device and go months before they get fixed.
The environment as a whole is stagnating because the barrier to entry is so high, and new hurdles are being placed there all the time. Meanwhile it seems like Windows development and BREW development get easier and easier all the time. It’s just obviously bad news for the S60 platform long term, yet no one seems to really notice or care. Or when they do they explain it away by saying that mobile is hard so of course developing for it is hard. Nice try, but others are making it easier. Someone needs to wake up there and do something or they’re gonna end up under the bus. I can only hope that their lack of visible activity is due to a massive secret internal effort to get an S60 interface up and running on Linux instead of Symbian. I’ve got my fingers crossed.