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Symbian: It's Really Free, Baby

The Symbian Foundation has finished the project to take its market-leading smartphone operating system open-source, calling it "the largest in software history."

The project to move Symbian open-source was announced after Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) bought out the rest of Symbian Ltd. in June 2008 for $411 million. (See Mobile OS Wars: Nokia Snaps Up Symbian.)

The Finnish phone giant set up the Symbian Foundation to take a community-driven approach to developing future editions of the Symbian platform. (See Symbian: Mobile OS Boss... For Now and Symbian Wants the World.)

This morning, the Foundation unveiled the Symbian 3 code, the first fruits of the massive open-source effort. "The Symbian platform is now open-source -- anyone can download it," says Larry Berkin, General Manager USA of the Symbian Foundation. "A project of this size, scope, and depth hasn’t really been undertaken before."

Berkin says the project involved "tens of millions of lines of code." Nonetheless, the community, which Berkin describes as a "market-sensitive meritocracy," helped advance the release date for the code, as it had been slated for June 2010.

But since Nokia took over Symbian and the Foundation moved in an open-source direction, the mobile OS market has changed, most notably with more widespread acceptance for Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s Android OS.

So Unstrung asked Berkin if he felt that Symbian had missed its window in an open-source market. "I think there’s a pent-up demand to take it [Symbian] in different directions," he told us.

This could mean that Symbian will move beyond its phone stronghold and into other devices. Berkin doesn't have anything to add yet about what types of devices.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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