Finland’s Nokia—still the world’s largest maker of mobile handsets—announced today it plans to acquire remaining outstanding shares of UK-based Symbian for €264 million (about $410 million). But the move isn’t intended to bring the Symbian operating system, which Nokia uses in its smartphones, fully in-house and give the mobile giant even greater control. Instead, Nokia plans to set Symbian up as a royalty-free platform, via the new Symbian Foundation, so other manufacturers and developers can use in their mobile devices. Industry watchers are viewing the move as a savvy response to Google’s open source Android platform and the LiMo Foundation’s efforts to build a Linux-based mobile platform…and, of course, to make Symbian more competitive with Windows Mobile counter mobile developers’ eagerness to build for the Apple iPhone.
“Ten years ago, Symbian was established by far sighted players to offer an advanced open operating system and software skills to the whole mobile industry”, said Symbian CEO Nigel Clifford, in a statement. “Our vision is to become the most widely used software platform on the planet.”
Prior to this deal, Nokia owned about 48 percent of Symbian. Symbian software is used in about two thirds of all smartphones sold worldwide; it’s closest rival is currently Windows Mobile, which is occupies about 13 percent of the smartphone market. Nokia is by far the largest developer of Symbian devices.
“Establishing the Foundation is one of the biggest contributions to an open community ever made,” said Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, in a statement. “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.”
Nokia already has a broad range of device developers and mobile operators onboard with teh Symbian Foundation, including Motorola, Sony Ericsson, Samsung, LG, AT&T, Texas Instruments, STMicroelectronics, Docomo, and Vodafone. Sony Ericsson and Motorola have also announced they intend to contribute technology from UIQ to the foundation, and Docomo plans to contribute its MOAP software.
The joint Symbian platform is expected to begin reaching consumers in 2009.
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