Elop: Symbian will be updated “at least” until 2016

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop (May 2011)

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop is making what many consider a hail-mary move to restore his company’s fortunes in the mobile industry by betting heavily on Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 platform. However, seeking to re-assure Nokia’s long-time partners and developers, Elop is now taking steps to emphasize that Nokia’s existing Symbian platform won’t be going away overnight. In China, speaking with Nokia’s own Conversations blog, Elop said Symbian will be receiving updates “at least up to” 2016.

The promise is important for Nokia’s existing development and channel partners: although Nokia has yet to be a serious competitor in the post-iPhone smartphone market, the company is still the largest maker of mobile handsets in the world, based largely on its sales into emerging markets. Most of those handsets run Symbian, and it will be some time before operators and channel partners can shift their operations over to a Windows Phone or MeeGo operating system.

Elop also emphasized that Beijing will be one of Nokia’s four major R&D bases for Windows Phone, but also the global R&D center for Nokia’s Symbian S30 and S40 systems. That means China will become the heart of Nokia’s Symbian development efforts and that if Symbian programmers are looking for work—as Nokia cuts 7,000 jobs and shifts the operating system to Accenture—China might be the place to look.