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Interview: Sari Stahlberg, S60

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The focus on Symbian cannot be lost at such a crucial time, when more and more players of the telecommunications industry pledge their confidence to open-source consortia.

One of the most important members of the Symbian Foundation, S60, is owned by Nokia, which means that it is one of the main contributors to the consortium.

Sari Stahlberg, Director of S60 Product and Technology Marketing, was available for an interview with PhoneReport’s Meraj Chhaya, at the Symbian Smartphone Show 2008, in London.

Stahlberg is responsible for creating industry awareness and excitement on S60, including the overall definition, creation and alignment of external marketing messages on S60 software strategy, technologies and products, and driving S60 industry brand and value proposition. She has been with Nokia since 2003, in different global marketing development positions, and then heading S60 Sales & Marketing strategy creation, followed by her current position.

PhoneReport: “Sari, we have heard very exciting news about the current position of Symbian, and about many other companies who have joined the Foundation. S60’s word is equally important, and we do have few questions that interest the readers, and everyone who is going to be affected by these companies’ moves.”

Sari Stahlberg: “Let’s address those matters, Meraj.”

PhoneReport: “Sari, S60 is regarded as an User Interface, while it calls itself a software platform. What is S60 in technical terms?”

Sari Stahlberg: “In technical terms, S60 is built on top of the OS, which is Symbian. In S60 we have middleware, we have applications, and then we have run-times.

So the middleware provides different types of enablers. Applications comprise of functionality that is on the phone, such as the calendar, the telephone, the camera, all the applications that are on the phone itself. The run-times are the development platform on top of which the third-party, the service-providers, or application developers can write their applications.

So those are the three main components, layers that are in S60.”

PhoneReport: “How is S60 facing the fact that Symbian is going open-source?”

Sari Stahlberg: “We are really happy about the fact that Symbian will be going open-source. What we have been announcing, together with ten other companies, nine companies plus Nokia, is that we will be forming what we call the Symbian Foundation, and Symbian is also supporting that.

We have been planning for the fact that Nokia is acquiring Symbian, and after the completion of the acquisition, we will both run Symbian and S60, and turn in into a Foundation that offers the platform for free, and the source code for free for Symbian members, and make it open-source.

So we really are excited that S60 is part of that asset that will bring Symbian to open-source.”

[Editors note: Nokia’s acquisition of Symbian has been completed, as of December 2, 2008.]

PhoneReport: “Where will S60 be, in the middle of the User Interface mixture that is going to be seen, when the first Symbian Foundation device is released?”

Sari Stahlberg: “The Symbian Foundation will actually make the life easier than what it is today. Today you have Symbian OS, and these three different User Interfaces, application frameworks, but what the Foundation will do, is unifying the platform so that there will only be one.

There will be the Symbian OS, and then integrated to that, only one UI layer, and application layer, and it will be based on S60. So it will be Symbian plus S60, the Foundation platform will be based on that, and integrate the best elements from UIQ and MOAP.

So it will make it easier; earlier there were three, but the Foundation will unify it, so that there will only be one.”

PhoneReport: “What will be available to the developer from the S60 UI when Symbian is open-sourced? What will they be able to edit, remove, or add?”

Sari Stahlberg: “Basically S60 will be part of the open-source asset as well, so when Symbian OS becomes open-source, S60 will, too.

When the Foundation is started-up in the first half of next year [2009], both Symbian OS and S60 will be available for anybody who is a member. So the developers who wish to become members, and sign up for the membership agreement, of which the fee is US$1500, on the Day 1 of the Foundation, they will have availability to all the source code.

Within two years, those developers who are not members, will be able to access the source code through the Eclipse Public Licence. The developers will receive all the source code, will be able to work on it, contribute to it, and use it for their development purposes.

At the moment, in S60 there are public APIs and SDK, which will remain for the future and during the Symbian Foundation, so in order to access the public SDK, you don’t even need to be a member, you can always get that from the Foundation, which will be providing all of the support that developers need for building on the platform.”

PhoneReport: “Will the first Symbian Foundation device implement S60 5th edition, or a newer edition?”

Sari Stahlberg: “It will be based on the 5th edition, but there will be evolutions. We will not stop development at 5th edition, but we will be evolving that, and the first asset that is contributed to the Foundation will be the S60 platform, so it will be atleast 5th edition.”

PhoneReport: “Why was the 5800 XpressMusic chosen as the first S60 5th edition, instead of a flagship NSeries device?”

Sari Stahlberg: “In Nokia, Product Planning does always make its own decisions, so we, when supplying the platform, do not decide what products take what functionality.

I believe that one of the things Nokia wanted to do with 5th edition, with the 5800 in this case, is to bring a really good music device to that segment, that wants to be consumed with music. So we found out that, in that segment there is a huge need for a whole solution with that handset, and the Comes with Music campaign that has been launched at the same time.

This is a segment where there is a big gap, a big market need, and we found that this is a good place to bring the first Touch device.”

PhoneReport: “Is S60 feeling the heat, is it worried by the potential market share, that Apple will receive, and is receiving already, thanks to its attractive User Interface? “

Sari Stahlberg: “Apple has done a great job, but when we see the latest figures of more than a 180 million S60-based devices being shipped by June this year, we do see that we are getting a lot of volume, and we have that type of market, covering so many segments, covering so many markets, covering so many regions, and countries in the world, and we have a superior support for many different languages, and now that we are bringing Touch to S60, we can cover even more segments, because with the same platform, S60, you can build devices fitting different needs, different categories, those that need a ordinary keypad, those needing a QWERTY, or those that need a Touch. For example, this Touch can be used with one finger or both, or stylus, and also supports handwriting recognition that is important for the Asian for example, and many other countries as well.

There will also be devices that have both Touch and keyboard, so all of this is possible with one platform, S60.

So, to be able to serve a wide market, when we are already talking about 180 million, you need that flexibility, to support different types of devices, so I feel that we are doing well, yeah.”

PhoneReport: “Let me approach an end-user question. Many S60-based devices are released with early firmware versions, thriving with bugs. Are you sacrificing software quality for the needs of the market?”

Sari Stahlberg: “Quality is really important for us, the end-user experience is really important to us, so we do put a lot of focus to it, in the sense that we ship products that don’t have bugs, but at times, we might not be able to even discover all the bugs.

When we are putting the device on the market, we make sure that we are listening to the consumers, finding out, hearing when there are bugs reported in the market, and trying to get fixes to them as quick as possible, with updating the software of the devices, for example.”

PhoneReport: “So at times, there is a need to sacrifice the software, for market needs?”

Sari Stahlberg: “I do know that we consider quality a really important factor, it is a focus-area for us to try to make sure that we can ship as a good of a product as possible to every single market.”

PhoneReport: “What’s next for the mobile world?”

Sari Stahlberg: “I’m really excited about the Symbian Foundation, because it is bringing the whole “open-source way of working” into developing the mobile platform.

I think we can develop the software so much better, and quicker, when we are sharing it in open-source, so that’s something. The whole shift of bringing the new way of working is really a huge thing.

I also believe that more and more important will be the internet services in the mobile, and it’s not like “ok mobile, and then you use the same services all the time”, but all the context that you have on the device, because it’s your device, it’s with you all the time, it has your location, your personal data, you can take pictures, and share with your friends, your communities in the internet, and all these topics add so much value to the internet services, than if they only stand alone or accessed by PC. That will be more and more the way to access services, to access and participate in your communities.”

PhoneReport: “Sari, thank you very much indeed for your assistance in trying to find out what path industry movers are following, for their hopeful success in the open-source race.”

Sari Stahlberg: “It was a pleasure Meraj, see you next time.”

More information available on Sari Stahlberg at Nokia.

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By , Editor-in-Chief, Johannesburg office

Published on Dec 20th, 2008 GMT +2

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