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Jonathan Erickson

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

Nokia to Acquire Symbian; Open Source OS Down the Road

June 23, 2008

In a surprise announcement (at least a surprise to me) mobile phone giant Nokia announced it is launching an effort to acquire all of the shares of Symbian Limited stock that Nokia does not already own.

Symbian Limited is the software company that develops and licenses the Symbian OS operating system for mobile devices. Mobile devices based on Symbian OS account for 60 percent of the converged mobile device segment. To date, more than 200 million Symbian OS based phones have been shipped, over 235 models, from 8 vendors, and on more than 250 mobile networks around the world. More than 4 million developers are engaged in producing applications for Symbian devices.

"This is a significant milestone in our software strategy" said 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. This will drive the development of new and compelling, web-enabled applications to delight a new generation of consumers."

At the same time, Nokia announced the establishment of the Symbian Foundation, a consortium that includes AT&T, LG Electronics, Motorola, NTT DOCOMO, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments, and Vodafone.

We had a chance to check in with Nokia spokesperson Kasey Farrar about the effort. Here's what he had to say:

DDJ: How will this consolidation affect current Symbian licensees who traditionally compete with Nokia? Sony Ericsson, Panasonic, Siemens, and the like.

KF: For all Foundation members this will mean royalty free access to the market leading Smartphone platform, a complete platform with operating system, UI and application framework, access to source code, and transparency in platform development. All Symbian customers can join as members -- by accepting the Foundation membership agreement.

DDJ:  Does "open platform" mean "open source"? If so, under what kind of license?

KF: The Foundation software will be royalty free from day one to all members, and all members will have full source code access to the code and right to modify and distribute it (according to the license terms). The software will also gradually be moved to open source and target is to have the complete platform in open source within 2 years.

The Foundation is truly open (and neutral) for all industry players, including internet service providers and new business models. The assets will be made available under the Foundation's royalty free licensing to members from day one (expected first half 2009). Platform assets will also be made available as open source in incremental steps over the next 2 years. Why? There is preparation work needed (both legal and technical) before source code can be released to open source. Given the size of the platform, we will release the foundation platform to the open source community incrementally.

The Foundation will move the platform to open source under Eclipse Public License during next two years to further extend the leading collaborative mobile community.

All third-party developers, whether members or non-members, can develop applications, services, etc on top of the platform by with the public SDKs provided by the foundation, without incurring a royalty fee.

DDJ: What will happen to the SymbianOS developer tools?

KF: The Foundation will provide a developer program and ecosystem support that serves the basic development needs for the new platform based on Symbian OS and S60 and offers a single point of access to developer support. It also provides a wide offering of tools, SDKs and APIs, to ensure ability to develop from launch.

Forum Nokia will continue to focus increasingly on supporting Ovi, Web Technologies, Series 40 and maemo software plus Nokia's specific business target, getting the best services for our devices.

We will now begin planning a co-operation model that will be established between Nokia's and the Foundation's developer programs.

DDJ:  What is the role of the Symbian Foundation?

KF: The Symbian Foundation's role is to further strengthen the development and adoption of the most advanced and widely used converged device platform on the market, with over 200 million Symbian based devices shipped, making it the most attractive open platform for all ecosystem partners.

The members of the Symbian Foundation share the vision that the unified Foundation platform will supercharge innovation and accelerate the availability of new services and compelling experiences for consumers and business users around the world, bringing growth to the mobile industry and creating greater value for everyone.

DDJ:  What will be the impact on other Nokia-supported operating systems (such as Linux?

KF: This will have no impact on our software strategy. We believe both Symbian and Linux are strategically important long-term platforms for our devices, and we will continue to invest in both.


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