Mobile OS Wars: Nokia Snaps Up Symbian

Shrewd move by Nokia
"The move’s a shrewd response to growing threats from other providers of mobile phone software," reckons Geoff Blaber, an analyst at U.K.-based consultancy CCS Insight .

In a research note sent by email early Tuesday, Blaber notes that while "Symbian has grown into the dominant supplier of smartphone operating systems... it’s being challenged by a variety of new contenders."

Those contenders include:

  • The LiMo Foundation , which Blaber notes "has strong support from network operators, which have been attracted by its governance model. Operators believe they have more opportunity to influence the direction of this open-source platform than with Symbian and its S60 and UIQ user interfaces." (See Verizon's LiMo Bean 'Surprise', Verizon Opens LiMo Door , Orange Joins LiMo, and LiMo Shows Off Handsets.)

  • Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), which, says the analyst, has "raised the bar from a technical perspective -- Symbian licensees need to respond quickly to its touch-screen user interface, high performance and easy-to-use development tools."

  • And last but not least, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), which "has challenged the commercial model, stating that its Android platform has reduced the cost of software to 'close to zero,' " notes the CCS Insight man.
Given the "current trend toward open-source software platforms," Blaber believes Nokia's move is a smart one, not only because Nokia will no longer have to pay Symbian licensing fees (Blaber estimates those amounted to more than $250 million for Nokia in 2007), but because the wider involvement of chip vendors and carriers in Symbian's development will make it more stable and attractive to carriers, developers, and end users.

It could even, notes the analyst, "make Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)'s Windows Mobile and Google’s Android look overly proprietary and dominated by a single player."

But Blaber also wonders whether Nokia has acted too late: "It has taken a sharp increase in competition from Google, Apple and the LiMo Foundation to force this move. Perhaps Nokia should have done this after it bought Psion’s 31.1 percent stake [in Symbian] back in July 2004. This would certainly have made LiMo a less attractive proposition and Sony Ericsson and Motorola would have been able to use their resources more effectively on a unified platform."

And there may also be questions about how dominant Nokia might be in the Foundation as the owner of the Symbian OS. "Can the new entity really be open when Nokia has such a vested interest?" asks Blaber. "This may be the stated goal, but in practice it might be more difficult to achieve."

And there's another question we want answered: What will Nokia buy on Wednesday?

Nokia's share price is down 1.2 percent Tuesday to €15.48 on the Helsinki stock exchange.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

Previous Page
2 of 2
Be the first to post a comment regarding this story.
Sign In