Symbian originated from EPOC, an operating system created by Psion in the 1980s. In June 1998, Psion Software became Symbian Ltd., a major joint venture between Psion and phone manufacturers Ericsson, Motorola, and Nokia.
Afterwards, different software platforms were created for Symbian, backed by different groups of mobile phone manufacturers. They include S60 (Nokia, Samsung and LG), UIQ (Sony Ericsson and Motorola) and MOAP(S) (Japanese only such as Fujitsu, Sharp etc.).
In June 2008, Nokia announced the acquisition of Symbian Ltd., and a new independent non-profit organization called the Symbian Foundation was established. Symbian OS and its associated user interfaces S60, UIQ and MOAP(S) were contributed by their owners Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Sony Ericsson and Symbian Ltd., to the foundation with the objective of creating the Symbian platform as a royalty-free, open source software, under the OSI- and FSF-approved Eclipse Public License (EPL). The platform has been designated as the successor to Symbian OS, following the official launch of the Symbian Foundation in April 2009. The Symbian platform was officially made available as open source code in February 2010.
Nokia became the major contributor to Symbian's code, since it then possessed the development resources for both the Symbian OS core and the user interface. Since then Nokia has been maintaining its own code repository for the platform development, regularly releasing its development to the public repository. Symbian was intended to be developed by a community led by the Symbian Foundation, which was first announced in June 2008 and which officially launched in April 2009. Its objective was to publish the source code for the entire Symbian platform under the OSI- and FSF-approved Eclipse Public License (EPL). The code was published under EPL on 4 February 2010; Symbian Foundation reported this event to be the largest codebase moved to Open Source in history.
However, some important components within Symbian OS were licensed from third parties, which prevented the foundation from publishing the full source under EPL immediately; instead much of the source was published under a more restrictive Symbian Foundation License (SFL) and access to the full source code was limited to member companies only, although membership was open to any organisation.
In November 2010, the Symbian Foundation announced that due changes in global economic and market conditions (and also a lack of support from members such as Samsung and Sony Ericsson), it would transition to a licensing-only organisation; Nokia announced it would take over the stewardship of the Symbian platform. Symbian Foundation will remain the trademark holder and licensing entity and will only have non-executive directors involved.
On 11 February 2011, Nokia announced a partnership with Microsoft that would see it adopt Windows Phone as its primary smartphone platform, and Symbian will be its franchise platform (dropping Symbian as its main smartphone OS of choice). As a consequence, the use of the Symbian platform for building mobile applications dropped rapidly. Research in June 2011 indicated that over 39% of mobile developers using Symbian at the time of publication were planning to abandon the platform.
By 5 April 2011, Nokia ceased to openly source any portion of the Symbian software and reduced its collaboration to a small group of pre-selected partners in Japan. Source code released under the EPL remains available in third party repositories.
On 22 June 2011, Nokia made an agreement with Accenture for an outsourcing program. Accenture will provide Symbian-based software development and support services to Nokia through 2016; about 2,800 Nokia employees became Accenture employees as of October 2011. The transfer was completed on 30 September 2011.
On 1 January 2014, with Nokia shifting their developer support away from Symbian, developers will not be able to publish new Symbian applications or content into the Nokia Store. However, existing Nokia Store content can still be downloaded.