Symbian CEO steps down – Is the ship sinking?

Symbian Foundation CEO Lee Williams leaves

Symbian Foundation CEO Lee Williams leavesBad news Symbian fans, as Symbian Foundation CEO Lee Williams will be leaving for nebulous “personal reasons” and he will be replaced by the foundation’s CFO, Tim Holbrow. We don’t know why Lee Williams is leaving but this cannot bode well for Symbian.

Lee Williams came from Nokia and was tasked with making Symbian and the foundation an independent organization that made Apple, Google and others tremble. He was the organization’s public face and routinely said he wanted to make Apple cry. It hasn’t quite worked out that way.

As a true open source project, it took a long time for Symbian^3 to get out the door. We’ve seen it on devices like the E7 and N8 and it still seems a few steps behind the competition.

Don’t get me wrong, Symbian is still a highly-capable OS but it lacks the polish, flair and developer excitement which surround Android, iOS and maybe even Windows Phone 7. What’s worse is that the early versions of Symbian^4 we’ve seen still look behind and that’s about a year away.

One of the major goals of Lee Williams was to make people realize that the foundation was a strong, independent organization that isn’t just propped up by Nokia. I believe he has failed at this job, as the only major handsets we’ve seen using the open-source version of Symbian come from Nokia.

I’m not alone in that thinking, as Samsung and Sony Ericsson have also dropped support for this smartphone platform in favor of Google’s Android.

Android has also been eating the foundation’s lunch, even though some would argue that the commercially-viable version of Android isn’t as “open” as Symbian is. That hasn’t seemed to matter much, as handset makers and consumers are favoring the more polished Android.

What’s your take, friends?

[Via Mobile Industry Review]

  • Anonymous

    Lee failled at attracting more OEM to the Symbian side. It might be the driver of this move. He was targeting BIG numbers of device shippements, but on Android side, there are few making huge shipment and a lot making small to negligeble shipment, still making the platform relevant.

    He was less in frontline those last times.

    Another option would be the need to shut the door of the foundation and a CFO is not the less capable of managing this, even if it’s the last thing I’m want to see.

  • Anonymous

    There is no shortage of so-called “reviewers” producing negative reviews of the Symbian OS. However, I’ve yet to see one of them, that’s zero, zilch, nada, tell me what I can do on another phone (android, apple OS, windows) that I can’t do on a phone with a Symbian OS.

  • It would have been far better for Symbian and Nokia if Lee’s goal, instead of being “make Apple cry” had been to turn Symbian (and the S60 UI) into credible modern mobile phone software.

    Instead, Symbian remains an operating system that has few unique benefits and a very steep learning curve for its developers to climb. In its D-Pad UI guise, it’s functionally obsolete. And in its touch-screen guise, it’s still very awkward to use, although Symbian^3 is no longer the irrational joke that S60 version 5.x represented with its “Do I single click or double-click here? Or did I get it right but the operating system’s just lagging behind?” approach to interface design.

    It is possible that Symbian^4 with its completely revamped, Qt-based UI *MIGHT* be a competent competitor for the smartphones that were shipping in 2008. Unfortunately, Symbian^4 won’t be be shipping until 2011, not 2008. And Nokia has already driven a marketing stake through its heart by announcing that MeeGo will be the OS for their high-end phones.

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