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Nokia to buy, free Symbian

Jun 24, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive
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[Updated 2:15PM] — Nokia will buy the rest of Symbian, and release the smartphone OS under an open source license. The OS will be governed and owned by a Symbian Foundation formed by Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Ericcson, Panasonic, Siemens, AT&T, LG, Samsung, STMicroelectrics, TI, and Vodafone.

Nokia has long owned 49 percent of Symbian. Now, the Finnish handset manufacturer hopes to buy out its former Symbian partners, paying a total of EUR 264 million (about $410 million U.S.), or EUR 3.647 (about $5.6) per share. Nokia has already received “irrevocable undertakings” for accepting the offer from Sony Ericsson, Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson, Panasonic Mobil Communications, and Siemens, which are said to represent about 91 percent of the shares subject to the offer. Nokia says it expects remaining partner Samsung Electronics to accept the offer, as well.

Nokia expects the acquisition to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2008, but notes that the deal is subject to regulatory approval. At the deal's close, all Symbian employees will become employees of Nokia, says the company. Symbian was established as a privately-owned company in 1998, with headquarters in London.

UI unification?

Currently, a variety of user interface layers are maintained for Symbian, including Nokia's S60, Motorola/Ericsson's UIQ, and NTT/DoCoMo's MOAP (which also runs on Linux). Early indications are that each of these layers would also be contributed to the Symbian Foundation. In separate announcements, Sony Ericsson and Motorola announced that they will contribute technology from UIQ to the Foundation, and Docomo has also “indicated its willingness” to contribute its MOAP(S) assets.

Additionally, the Foundation plans to develop a unified platform with a common UI framework, says Nokia. That software will be offered to all Foundation members under a royalty-free license, “from the Foundation's first day of operations,” Nokia said. Membership in the Foundation will be open, at a cost of $1,500 U.S.

The Foundation will make “selected components” available as open source at launch, and will then “work to establish the most complete mobile software offering available in open source,” says Nokia. The process is expected to take two years, with the final open source platform be released under Eclipse Public License (EPL) 1.0..

According to Nokia, Symbian OS accounts for 60 percent of the converged mobile device segment, with 200 million Symbian OS based phones shipped to date, covering 235 models from eight vendors. Nokia claims that four million developers are engaged in producing applications for Symbian devices.

Stated Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, CEO of Nokia, “Symbian is already the leading open platform for mobile devices. Through this acquisition and the establishment of the Symbian Foundation, it will undisputedly be the most attractive platform for mobile innovation.”

The announcement comes only a week after Nokia completed its acquisition of cross-platform mobile software provider Trolltech.

Analysis

Symbian has been the top smartphone OS essentially since smartphones came into existence. Yet, analyst report after analyst report has forecast Symbian losing share to Linux and/or Windows in the long run. The primary reason? Symbian has been seen as too much in Nokia's control. What phone maker, given a choice, wants to license an OS belonging in large part to a competitor, and the largest competitor in the market at that?

Furthermore, owning only a minority stake in Symbian meant that Nokia could not really control the OS, in spite of industry perceptions. Perceived as a dictator, it was really only a paper dragon.

That will all change, assuming the deal passes regulatory approval. The Symbian Foundation will apportion board seats according to units shipped, putting Nokia more in the driver's seat than ever, while at the same time, likely increasing the market's perception of Symbian as vendor-neutral technology that can be used in differentiated products.

For additional perspective, focusing on how the move affects Nokia's evolving Linux strategy, we interviewed Nokia's director of open source, Dr. Ari Jaaksi, here.

Additional resources include an analysis piece by eWEEK's Clint Boulton, and market analyst Andreas Constantinou's reaction, posted in his VisionMobile blog, here.


 
This article was originally published on LinuxDevices and has been donated to the open source community by QuinStreet Inc. Please visit LinuxToday.com for up-to-date news and articles about Linux and open source.

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