Nokia will offer free upgrade of existing smart phones to Symbian Anna by August

Owners of high-end Nokia phones (N8, E7, C7 and C6-01) can upgrade their existing operating system to the next version of Symbian — the Anna — free of charge by the end of August, Nokia India said today.

The Anna is likely to be the last big upgrade to the venerable Symbian operating system before Nokia abandons its altogether for Microsoft Windows at the turn of 2011-12. Anna has got decent reviews, with many features, such as web browsing, reported to be faster than in older versions.

It will also bring new icons, a new app store and for big companies, new security features such as as hardware accelerated encryption and others related to security and messaging. The upgrade will have to be done using the Nokia PC (OVI) suite after downloading the required files from its website.

Nokia said all the new high-end phones that it ships from next month will also have Anna. It also plans to have around 10 new smart phones over the next one year that run on Symbian — before laying it to rest by June next year.

One of the earliest smart phone operating systems ever invented, the Symbian is credited with being seminal in the creation of the market. It powered devices such as the Nokia Communicator and the N Series.

Symbian, however, suffered from the same problem that Nokia did — it failed to evolve with a consumer who was more interested in large-display, touch-screen-based, multi-media oriented phones with lots of applications. As a result, while Symbian’s stability cannot be doubted, it faced challenges in meeting consumer demands, especially in being seen as ‘funky’ rather than clunky.

Earlier this year, Nokia announced it will be retiring Symbian and jumping on Microsoft’s Windows Mobile platform — one that sorely requires hardware partners to take off. The Windows Mobile 7 platform has got good reviews so far, surprising critics who expected Microsoft to deliver yet another disappointing version of its Mobile platform.

However, past mistakes have more or less cost Microsoft its share of the smart phone market — going from over 50% to just around 3.5% at present. Google’s Android, meanwhile is estimated to be on around 50% of all smart phones sold in the World today. Nokia was widely expected to jump on to the Android bandwagon, but the company decided against it — pointing out that it may not be able to stand out in the market as a late-entrant.

The Android market is currently dominated by Samsung, HTC and Motorola.

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