History of Symbian: reference operating system before Android and iOS


History of Symbian, begins with a British company called Psion, founded in 1980 by businessman David Potter, who made games and software for the English brand Sinclair, owner of computers like the ZX Spectrum. Over the years, the company began to manufacture its own devices, such as electronic diaries and personal digital assistants, or PDAs.

Handheld computers

In a period when smartphones were far from existent, desktops were not portable and cell phones were just bricks with a small screen of a line just to display the numbers, PDAs were a phenomenon.

Also called handheld computers, they mixed contact book, notepad, basic internet access functions and many other features that have become popular both in the corporate environment and among more traditional consumers.

In addition, the keyboard, despite having small buttons, was more complete than the cell phone. Even Apple tried to catch this market with Newton, from the early 1990s, but he was not convincing and it was too expensive. However, brands like Palm have made a name for themselves in this industry for many years, as has Psion itself.

The origin of EPOC

Psion’s asset was to launch an operating system for the PDAs themselves, a platform called EPOC, in 1989. Years later, it evolved into a 32-bit version, EPOC32, and then it really started to stand out.

Altogether, there were 5 versions of the EPOC32, and some of the devices were from the brand itself, such as the Series 5mx. But Psion’s idea was to gradually migrate from PDAs to cell phones, as they were changing, gaining bigger screens and more features. Only, for that, it could not remain regional.

From Psion to Symbian

In June 1998, Psion changed its name and became Symbian. She was no longer the sole owner, but a joint venture with pieces acquired by major cellphone manufacturers, such as Nokia, Siemens, Ericsson and Motorola.

With this change, EPOC was also renamed and became Symbian OS, a platform mainly in C ++. One of the highlights of this period was the Ericsson R380, from 2000, considered one of the first models in whose marketing pieces the term “smartphone” was used.

The first cell in this cooperative phase of Symbian 6.0 is the Nokia 9210 Communicator, launched in November 2000, a smartphone with a flip horizontally and a style still similar to PDAs.

Different paths, different interfaces …

It looked like Symbian had everything going for it, and the numbers for more than a decade show that, for a while, it did. But right at the beginning, a red flag also appeared that would prove important in the end: fragmentation.

Beginning in 2001, groups of cell phone manufacturers adopted what they called “platforms”, which were their own versions based on Symbian. The problem is that this was not just a skin with a few extras, such as Xiaomi’s MIUI, Samsung’s One UI and the practically pure Android of some devices. They were very different from each other, they had their own development kits and, therefore, applications made for one did not always run on the other. That is, in addition to the difference in version of Symbian, there was also a difference in the interface.

Nokia was one of the brands that most bet on the product. At the beginning of the decade, it debuted the Series 80 interface, or Crystal, which lasted until 2006 and ran on devices more for corporate use of the Communicator line.

In November 2001, she introduced the Series 60, which later became only S60 and would be very important for the future of Symbian, since it was one of the most licensed for other manufacturers. Nokia also launched a Series 90 in 2003 for the curious Nokia 7710 device, but it soon ended.


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