Nokia Acquires Symbian, Plans To Open Platform

Nokia SymbianNokia announced it will acquire the remaining shares of mobile software licensing company Symbian Limited–moreover, the handset giant will team with Sony Ericsson, Motorola and NTT DoCoMo to unite the Symbian OS, S60, UIQ and MOAP technologies and forge a single open mobile software platform. The firms will also collaborate with AT&T, LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments and Vodafone to establish the Symbian Foundation, a non-profit initiative dedicated to accelerating the availability of new services and mobile experiences. The foundation will be open to all developers and “will provide a unified platform with common UI framework” under the royalty-free Eclipse Public License.

Now, open source software is great for developers because it mean that anyone can easily look at the code, tweak it, and write applications designed to run well on the platform. But there’s also a huge benefit for telecom companies. Nokia will provide access to the Symbian OS royalty-free to members of the Symbian Foundation. And anyone can join the foundation for a nominal $1500 annual fee.

Symbian currently has about 60 percent of the mobile browser market share. The move to make the platform open source should help Nokia and Symbian maintain that lead in the face of challenges from the LiMo Foundation and Google’s Linux-based Android platform.

“Establishing the Foundation is one of the biggest contributions to an open community ever made,” said Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, CEO of Nokia. “Nokia is a strong supporter of open platforms and technologies as they give the freedom to build, maintain and evolve applications and services across device segments and offer by far the largest ecosystem, enabling rapid innovation. Today’s announcement is a major milestone in our devices software strategy.”

The Symbian Foundation is expected to begin operations during the first half of 2009, subject to completion of the Nokia/Symbian acquisition. Financial terms were not disclosed, but The Wall Street Journal reports Nokia will purchase Siemens AG’s 8.4 percent stake in Symbian for about $109.4 million, bringing its overall ownership in the software firm to 56.3 percent. According to Nokia, there are currently more than 200 million phones, 235 different models and tens of thousands of third-party mobile applications already based on the Symbian OS. The first devices based on the Symbian Foundation open-source code are expected to arrive in 2010.

Symbian is a software licensing company that develops and licenses Symbian OS, the market-leading open operating system for mobile phones. Symbian licenses Symbian OS to the world’s leading handset manufacturers and has built close co-operative business relationships with leading companies across the mobile industry. During Q1 2008, 18.5 million Symbian mobile phones were sold worldwide to over 250 major network operators, bringing the total number of units shipped up to 31 March 2008 to 206 million. Symbian has its headquarters in London, United Kingdom, with offices in the United States, United Kingdom, Asia (India, P.R. China, and Korea) and Japan. For more information, please visit www.symbian.com.

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