Symbian is hoping to encourage developers to move interesting desktop applications to mobile phones by making it easier to port them to the Symbian operating system.
The company has introduced standard Posix (Portable Operating System Interface) code libraries on the mobile phone operating system, so developers can port existing commercial and open-source desktop applications. The Posix IEEE standard defines APIs for software compatible with many versions of the Unix and Linux operating systems.
"What we hope to do with this is bring more developers to the platform and get them to do more," said Erik Jacobson, product manager at Symbian.
A look at SourceForge, the website that supports open source projects, offers ideas of the types of applications that developers could now port to Symbian, Jacobson said. For example, popular file sharing applications such as eMule and Azureus could now become available to Symbian phone users, if a developer chooses to port them.
Such applications, while popular among desktop users, haven't been in big demand on mobile phones, Jacobson noted. However, with Wi-Fi support in many phones, such file sharing applications become more affordable and useful to mobile customers.
Developers could also make other software available on Symbian phones, including Web servers like Apache, and utilities like Samba, software that lets non-Microsoft clients look like a Windows machine to other Windows clients.
"We haven't thought of all the ideas that are going to happen," Jacobson said. "We're trying to allow innovation to happen. Hopefully we'll see some interesting and new exciting applications coming out."
Without Symbian's support for Posix, developers would have to recode the applications for the Symbian OS APIs, written in C++.
The Symbian OS also supports other development tools including Flash, Python and Ruby.
The first version of Posix support and a new Posix section within the Symbian developer web page should become available in early February. Jacobson expects to start seeing new applications appear some time this year.
The new Posix C APIs on Symbian are packaged into industry standard libraries, including libc, the C standard library; libm, a mathematical library; and libdl, which implements Posix-style dynamic linking. The APIs are tightly integrated into Symbian to optimise performance and memory usage.
Symbian estimates there are around 100 million Symbian phones in the market. While that represents the lion's share of smart phones, Symbian is coming under increasing pressure from competitors including relative newcomer Microsoft. Enabling more applications on the Symbian platform could help grow its user base.