FT : Nokia Takes Control Of Symbian

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


  • The world’s largest handset maker announced it was taking control of Symbian, the UK company responsible for the most popular operating system on smartphones
  • The founding members of the Symbian Foundation are: Nokia, Samsung Electronics, Motorola, LG, Sony Ericsson, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments, AT&T, NTT DoCoMo and Vodafone.  Nokia is paying €264m ($411m) to buy the 52% of Symbian it does not own
  • Nokia will contribute the computer code behind Symbian’s operating system to a new non-profit organisation to be called the Symbian Foundation.  The foundation will make the code available for nothing to software developers, in a move aimed at spurring innovation on the mobile internet.  Nokia is also handing to the foundation the code behind the S60, its user interface for smartphones…..The code held by the foundation will be made available progressively on an open-source basis to web developers from next year, and in full by 2010. 
  • Symbian is facing increasing competition. In the first quarter of 2007, its market share of smartphone sales to customers was 63.5%, according to researchers Gartner. In the first quarter of 2008 the figure had fallen to 57.1%
  • Last year, Google announced plans for its Android mobile software platform, which will also be made available on an open-source basis.  Google’s move, together with Apple’s unveiling of its iPhone last year, underlined how Symbian is facing increasing competition in smartphone software…..


  • Motorola, the US mobile maker, and Sony Ericsson, the handset manufacturer jointly owned by Japan’s Sony and Sweden’s Ericsson, are also handing the code behind their UIQ user interface to the Symbian Foundation.  NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s leading mobile operator, will contribute the code behind its MOAP user interface to the foundation.  The prospect of reconciling the S60, UIQ and MOAP interfaces into one software platform is one of the main potential benefits of the Symbian Foundation.  Handset makers and mobile operators complain about wasting money because of the complexity of working with 20 to 30 operating systems for mobiles and multiple user interfaces.  The handset makers are forever customising operating systems and software applications to suit the differing needs of mobile operators.
  • Analysts said the move would fuel innovation and accelerate the pace at which mobile software applications were rolled out.  Google said: “Openness fosters innovation, benefiting consumers. We’re very pleased to see other major players in the mobile industry moving in this direction.”
  • Significantly, mobile makers that are members of the Symbian Foundation will no longer have to pay royalties for use of Symbian’s operating system or Nokia’s S60 user interface from next year.  The mobile makers pay royalties worth $5 per phone to Symbian but Nokia declined to disclose its fees.  Ben Wood, analyst at CCS Insight, the research and advisory firm, said the end of royalties should cut the price of Nokia’s mobiles, and therefore increase sales. 
  • He added that Nokia, by taking control of Symbian, would ensure that its operating system integrates better with the software behind the Finnish mobile maker’s internet services such as maps and music.
  • Richard Windsor, analyst at Nomura, said that Nokia’s strategy could put pressure on Microsoft to cut the royalties that are linked to its Windows Mobile operating system.


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