Symbian boosts graphics and networking

Symbian boosts graphics and networking

Symbian showcases new technology at its annual Smartphone Show

Symbian has unveiled graphics and networking enhancements to its smartphone operating system and predicted the devices will become increasingly important as they gain features and technologies usually associated with desktop computers.

Speaking at the Symbian Smartphone Show in London, chief executive Nigel Clifford said the desktop, mobile and internet worlds are all converging as people increasingly carry their work and social life with them. "The smartphone will replace the desk phone and the feature phone, and is the future of communications," he said. Symbian OS currently powers 7 out of 10 smartphones worldwide.

Symbian unveiled two new technologies: a new graphics architecture called ScreenPlay designed to give a richer visual experience while preserving battery life, and which scales with the capabilities of the handset; plus a new networking architecture called FreeWay. Both will feature in handsets coming in 2008, Symbian said.

FreeWay is designed to work with forthcoming "Super 3G" mobile networks and beyond, and will offer crystal clear VoIP calls, according to Clifford. It can also switch intelligently and seamlessly between networks.

"If you are downloading from a hotspot and walk away, FreeWay detects the signal is weakening and automatically switches to the mobile network, without interrupting your download. When you get home, it detects your Wi-Fi there and switches to using that," Clifford said.

Together with Symbian's earlier announcement of support for symmetric multi-processing (SMP) in forthcoming mobile chips, the new features point to future phones with much greater capabilities than today's handsets.

Sony Ericsson chief technology officer Mats Lindoff said that smartphones would soon be able to replace a laptop for many users. "What you have in a Sony Vaio now can be put in a cellphone by 2010," he claimed. However, he warned that battery capacity is not keeping pace with new features.

Also at the show, Nokia unveiled a new touch-based user interface for its S60 software, which runs atop Symbian OS. This allows S60-based devices to support keyboard, finger or stylus input, with tactile feedback when users touch the screen, the company said. It is expected to appear in devices from 2008.

Quickoffice and DataViz both demonstrated updated versions of their mobile productivity suites with support for Microsoft Office 2007 file formats. Quickoffice Premier V5 supports S60 phones, while Documents To Go targets phones running the UIQ user interface, such as Sony Ericsson's P990. Both suites are set to ship in December.