Nokia takes over Symbian
Nokia has announced the purchase of all remaining shares in Symbian, the company behind the eponymous mobile operating system. The Finns plan to hand over both the operating system and the S60 interface to a new Symbian Foundation. S60, the UIQ interface from Sony Ericsson and Motorola and the Mobile Oriented Applications Platform (MOAP) from Docomo, are to be combined into a unified whole, with a common framework for the user interface. The software is to be made available without licence fees to all members of the Foundation, with a selection of components being made available under an open source license.
Nokia has offered the current key shareholders – Ericsson, Siemens, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony Ericsson – a total of 264 million euros for their shares. In the first quarter of 2008, Symbian posted a full 56 million euros in sales, 87 per cent of which was from license revenue.
In addition to Nokia, which used to be the largest single shareholder with some 47 per cent of all shares, the initiators of the consortium include Sony-Ericsson, Motorola, and NTT Docomo. AT&T, LG Electronics, Samsung, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments and Vodafone also plan to get on board. Some of these firms are already members of the Open Handset Alliance, which supports the Linux derivate Android developed by Google, as an open operating system for mobile devices.
The Symbian Foundation is to achieve what the former company could not: a unified software platform for mobile devices. The Symbian operating system was originally created in 1998 from Psion's Epoc. While the Symbian OS did provide a common basis for a wide range of devices, Nokia's S60 and Sony Ericsson's UIQ have different user interfaces. Software vendors therefore have to come up with different versions of their applications for each specific interface. That may be one reason why the range of Symbian programs is much smaller than the number of applications for Windows Mobile.
Another reason why Nokia wants to standardise development may be that other operating systems and interfaces for mobile devices have recently become much more popular.