Nokia plans to acquire the remaining 52% of shares in Symbian for about $410 million; Symbian then plans on uniting Symbian’s multiple operating systems (OSs), including Symbian OS, S60, UIQ and MOAP into one open mobile software platform.
While Symbian’s more than 1,000 developers will become Nokia employees, the Finnish company along with rival handset makers LG, Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson as well as AT&T, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments and Vodafone plan to establish the Symbian Foundation, a non-profit that will be responsible for marketing and licensing of the new open platform.
Nokia said that about 90% of the investors holding the portion of shares it plans to acquire already have agreed to the deal, including Panasonic Mobile Communications, Siemens, Sony Ericsson and Sweden’s Telefon AB L.M. Ericsson. Sony Ericsson and Motorola also announced their intention to contribute technology from UIQ to the foundation, and DoCoMo also plans to contribute its MOAP assets.
Symbian said that from the onset a full, unified platform will be available for all foundation members under a royalty-free license. The foundation also will make selected components available as open source at launch. It will then work to establish the most complete mobile software offering available in open source, which the foundation expects will be available over the next two years. Membership in the foundation will be open for an annual fee of $1,500.
“Ten years ago, Symbian was established by far-sighted players to offer an advanced open operating system and software skills to the whole mobile industry” said Nigel Clifford, CEO of Symbian, in a statement. “Our vision is to become the most widely used software platform on the planet and indeed today Symbian OS leads its market by any measure. Today’s announcement is a bold new step to achieve that vision by embracing a complete and proven platform, offered in an open way, designed to stimulate innovation which is at the heart of everything we do.”
Symbian said that its OSs are used in more than 235 mobile phone models, with tens of thousands of third-party applications already available.
Adam Leach, principal analyst at Ovum, wrote in a research note: “Fragmentation within the software platform market is the biggest single barrier to mobile data services and revenues. There are currently many initiatives to try and solve this. The two most promising candidates to make a real difference are, in Ovum’s view, the LiMo Foundation and, now, the Symbian Foundation…In the longer term, there is the larger opportunity for the Symbian and Linux communities to become closer and indeed join together; this would make a significant impact on service providers’ ability to derive revenue from mobile services.”