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  • Writer's pictureTingbin Tang

I designed and implemented 3D UI on Symbian

Most people would not believe this set of user interfaces we have done was on Symbian platform. But yes, not only have we designed it, but also we implemented it for Nokia Reader 2.0, which is an app owned by MobilEdu.



Even the managing team of Nokia headquarter had never realized, that Symbian system can also develop fancy UI. Otherwise, they could not have given up Symbian and then tried Meego, and then move to windows phone. Which, at the end, lead to their failure on mobile phone market from the top leader position.

Symbian was once central to Nokia's success. But as the iOS and Android onslaught hit Nokia hard, the company decided to ditch Symbian and MeeGo and go with Windows Phone. Its Asha line, which has been in place for years, is central to the company's efforts at appealing to developing countries. Jan. 1st, 2014 CNET

MobilEdu was a company spin off from Nokia, received investment from Pearson as well. We start to work with MobilEdu since they were still within Nokia as a small project team. Mobile Reader was one of the apps owned by MobilEdu.


Nokia was my first client, and have been on of my biggest clients during the past so many years. From Symbian to Meego to Windows Phone and even to Android, yes, you did not hear it wrong, we even worked on Android platform for application for Nokia phone and tablets; we have been working with Nokia on many mobile applications. Even later on they sold their mobile business to Microsoft, they are still one of our stable and biggest clients, and we are working with them on IT solutions, which used to be NSN (Nokia Siemens Network) and then back to Nokia umbrella.


What I have learnt are as below:


1. Enlarge your talent team, but not to hire them


For limited budget, no matter how rich are the companies, it is impossible for them to hire too many talents. But, we are living in an internet era, where almost every corner of the world are connected. If the platform was built with a good reward system, it should be able to attract many people from around the world, to work together with the in house team, even for free, if they can be rewarded in another way. That is why Youtube is so hot by sharing ads profit with the content contributors; Apple win the mobile market by its iTunes store.


If Nokia has a better open platform, I believe more talents around the world could have not just developed many apps for them; but also developed great UI / operating system for them. If you think of Xiaomi, whose strength was its community, every time when Xiaomi plan to release a new version of Mi-UI, volunteers will help them testing for bugs; volunteers will translate the UI into more than 146 languages. All the jobs that the volunteers have done are free, because they feel so fulfilled when they see their work have been into the market, and they feel their ownership.


2. Never lose control of your core competence


Of course Symbian was Nokia's core competence, even though it has some limitations when it moved to smart phone. But personally I had done some projects on Meego for Nokia, which I think was also good. But hire a spy as CEO, and giving up their own Symbian and Meego, move to windows phone, which Nokia can not control at all, is really a stupid thing they have done which, eventually result in their fail and out from the game of mobile market. What a pity.


3. Instead of giving up, why not, evolve?


Instead of giving up Symbian, a mature operating system, why not make it evolve? What we have done, the 3D UI effects, proved that Symbian can be good for smart phone as well, and it can even be fancy. Think about how many Symbian developers in the world at that time? Giving up Symbian suddenly is not just a irresponsible to them, which directly result in many of them lose their job; it is also such a waste of all the treasure that Nokia had already got.



History can not replay, and what is done is done, and we can not go back and start over. Especially for myself, as an outsider, we can not do anything to change it. But hopefully, we all learn from it.


One more thing to add is that, this was before Windows phone had this kind of flat layout design; so Microsoft was not the inventor for such layouts, but we did. We got our inspiration from Mondrian's abstract art work.

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