Nokia bids £208m for Symbian

Mobile telecoms firm Nokia has announced its intention to make parts of the Symbian operating system open source as it makes a £208m bid for Symbian, the mobile phone software developer.

Mobile telecoms firm Nokia has announced its intention to make parts of the Symbian operating system open source as it makes a £208m bid for Symbian, the mobile phone software developer.

The Finnish handset-maker, which owns 48% of Symbian, has received confirmation from Symbian's other majority shareholders that the deal will go ahead.

Nokia has announced plans to create the Symbian Foundation, an open source software development community that aims to spur innovation. The foundation will make part of the source code for its mobile phone operating system free to developers.

"The company anticipates a wealth of open-source-driven innovation by all other contributors that Nokia itself will be able to take full advantage of. This is likely to be extremely cost effective," said Tony Rizzo, research director of mobility at 451 Group.

"The foundation will not employ a single engineer or developer. All engineering and development work will come from the open source community," he said.

Geoff Blaber, an analyst at CCS Insight, said it was only a matter of time before Nokia bought out its five partners in Symbian. Over the last ten years, Symbian has grown into the dominant supplier of smartphone operating systems.

But the dominance is under threat from a variety of new contenders including Google and Apple.

"Apple has raised the bar from a technical perspective, and Symbian licensees need to respond quickly to its touch-screen user interface, high performance and easy-to-use development tools," Blaber said on his blog.

Symbian's competitive landscape has started to change rapidly over the past year with new entrants and old competitors increasing their influence, said Adam Leach, a principal analyst at Ovum.

"Linux has become a real threat to Symbian's business with a number of Linux initiatives gaining serious momentum," he said.

"In the longer term, perhaps there is some truth in the rumours that Nokia has a new Linux-based software platform on the blocks for high-end multimedia devices. It seems almost unthinkable that it would consider open-sourcing Symbian and S60 if it did not have something else up its sleeve," he said.

Other shareholders in Symbian include Sony Ericsson, Ericsson, Panasonic Mobile Communications and Siemens. Nokia expects Samsung Electronics, a partial stakeholder in Symbian, to agree to the sale but has not received confirmation yet.

Nokia expects the acquisition to be completed during the fourth quarter of 2008.




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