Mobile OS developer Symbian has made two significant announcements that show it extending its aim into the more volume end of the market, namely an ability to run the signaling stack in its core and the first of a series of 3G reference designs, in this case with Intel.
Symbian OS has traditionally been positioned as a platform for the higher end of the market, so much so that its annual conference is called The Symbian Smartphone Show.
However, the market as a whole has been turning its attention to the lower end of the spectrum over the last year, as markets such as China, India and Russia have come into their own and Asian manufacturers have become a major force with western operators.
Motorola has announced plans for a sub-$30 phone and is suing Palmsource for shunning it in favor of Access when it was recently acquired by the Japanese browser developer, who makes no secret of the fact that its main interest in the deal was Palmsource’s China Mobilesoft Linux-based development arm.
There has been much speculation that Symbian itself might feel the need to port its OS to a Linux kernel.
Not so, said Andy Brannan, VP of sales at the Cambridge-based ISV. Instead, the company has unveiled its Real Time Compatibility Layer (RTCL), which he described as a real time kernel that allows a phone company to host the signaling protocol stack on the OS stack.
In other words, where normally smart phones require two processors, one to run the signaling stack and the other to run the OS, the OS itself can now run the signaling stack, obviating the need for a second processor.
This allows you take a chunk of cost out of the stack and reduce its size, said Mr Brannan, estimating that this innovation could represent a reduction in the overall bill of materials of the order of 10%.
To further drive home the message, Symbian is also demo-ing a 3G reference design at the Show, in which Symbian OS v9 is running on Intel’s XScale processor for mobile phones.
This is about the volume market, where we can reduce cost and lower the time to market by offering all the signaling stack as part of the product shipped, said Symbian VP of marketing Simon Garth.
Of course, Intel is not a heavy hitter in silicon for mobile phones, a market dominated, in the GSM world, by Texas Instruments and Freescale, with others such as EMP and Agere in contention.
That the announcement was made first with Intel can be viewed as a courtesy by Symbian to the maven of X86, in fact. However, there will be other reference designs announced, according to Mr Garth.