Nokia's Not Giving Up on Symbian

Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) is committed to Symbian.

That was the main message today from Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo at the company's Capital Markets Day event. (See Nokia: Device Volumes up 10% in 2010.)

Nokia and Symbian Ltd. have been the subjects of much speculation lately, and the clamor has suggested that the Finnish phone maker could be prepared to ditch the mobile operating system in favor of the Linux-based Maemo platform, on which its new N900 device is based. (See Smartphone Showdown: Nokia Ships N900.)

But today's comments from Nokia's top exec put an end to all of that talk, for now anyway.

"We will continue to invest in Symbian as our dominant smartphone platform for the foreseeable future," said Kallasvuo. "Why? Because it makes good business sense.

"As an operating system, it has reach like no other platform. And it's flexibility is enough to push smartphones down to the new price points while growing margins. [This is] about getting the scale and flexibility right."

But Kallasvuo noted that there is "room for significant improvement in Symbian." And Nokia plans to revamp the operating system and launch a new version in mid 2010 that will be critical to the company's smartphone plans for next year.

Nokia's smartphone business could use a boost. This year, the company's share of the smartphone market fell from 41 percent in the second quarter to 35 percent in the third quarter. (See iPhone Sales Soar.)

The focus of the operating system refresh will be on the user interface. Kallasvuo said Nokia plans to make the Symbian user interface "more attractive, versatile, and easy to use."

The new Symbian version will be "faster, more responsive with new multitasking capabilities," said Kallasvuo. "The experience will be magical." [Ed. note: And by "magical," he means proprietary. Or at least that's what history tells us.]

For example, Nokia plans to make the user interface three times faster with scrolling speeds upped to 60 frames per second.

"This time next year, we expect the user interface issues to be a non issue," he said.

Nokia will develop devices on three different platforms: the S40 for mobile phones; Symbian for smartphones; and Maemo for mobile computing devices.

Nokia's plans for smartphones next year involve "democratizing" them and taking them to less developed markets than those where smartphones are typically sold.

"We will drive smartphones into new markets and lower price points to capture more value," said Kallasvuo. "We expect loyal Nokia users across the world to start trading up."

Nokia also said it plans to introduce a new mobile computing device based on Maemo 6 before the end of 2010.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

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