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Nokia in full buy-out of Symbian

fizsparky

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Finnish mobile phone giant Nokia is paying 264m euros ($410m; £209m) to buy out the other shareholders in handset software firm Symbian.

Nokia, which already owns 48% of the UK-based firm, intends to develop its software to compete with Google's planned Android operating system.

Nokia said Sony Ericsson, Ericsson, Panasonic and Siemens had agreed to sell their stakes in Symbian.

It added that Samsung was also expected to accept the offer.

For its part, Symbian said the takeover was "a fundamental step" in the establishment of the Symbian Foundation, which is expected to start operating in the first half of 2009.

The foundation will bring together Nokia, AT&T, LG, Motorola, NTT Docomo, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments and Vodafone in collaboration on a new, royalty-free open software platform for mobile phones.


The battle for your handset is under way
Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC technology correspondent
Read Rory's blog on Symbian

According to Nigel Clifford, chief executive of Symbian, it could signal a sea-change in how the software platform is developed.

"We're freeing up innovation - this is epoch-making.

"Nothing like this has been put into the open-source community before."

The aim is to unite several different existing operating systems - Symbian OS, S60, UIQ and MOAP.

The deal is a logical move, according to Handelsbanked analyst Karri Rinta.

"There was pressure for Nokia to increase its holding, especially since there were owners such as Panasonic and Siemens, who were there for historical reasons."

Android response?

The news comes one day after reports that Google's Android platform for mobile phones had suffered delays.

According to the Wall Street Journal, several firms who had signed up to the open-source platform were having difficulty coming up with their own custom applications in time for the planned launch later this year.

At a Symbian press conference, Kai Oistamo, executive vice-president of Nokia, denied that the takeover was a response to Android.

"This is taking the most proven software to open-source. It has an unparalleled existing ecosystem. It will create a gravitational pull that no developer will be able to ignore," he said.

But Geoff Blaber, an analyst with CCS Insight, questioned how open the platform will be.

"Can the new entity really be open when Nokia has such a vested interest? This may be the stated goal, but in practice it might be more difficult to achieve. We'll have to scrutinise the fine print of the intellectual property rights and articles of association," he said.

To date, more than 200 million Symbian OS based phones have been shipped and the operating system accounts for approximately 7% of the mobile devices market

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I'm really looking forward to this, because it's something positive for Nokia, but not only Nokia; other mobile phone companies aswell.

On top of this, its open-source software means that many developers will be able to establish new things..an increase its popularity. I think it should count for more than 7% of the mobile devices market.
 
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#2
IMO, this is a bad move by Nokia.

Symbian is a fine OS, but I do not think it will be able to compete with the business model Google is planning for Android.

Essentially, Google is developing a platform that is very extensible. I would not be surprised to see handset manufacturers creating 'blank' handsets that people can customise on an ad hoc basis. Naturally, the carriers will be in there first creating entirely bespoke interfaces - many do this already, especially with Nokia phones, but it is a costly thing to do and maintain.

If the carriers wanted to make sure that no other OS is installed, they would need cooperation from the like sof Nokia, Motorola, SE, Samsung etc. Given that Nokia has such a huge market share already, it may be that the smaller companies wont allow this - as they will now need to compete against Nokia.

Previously, SE, Motorola and Samsung have all tried Symbian, and still have Symbian handsets out there (SE P1i for example). As a counter point, there are other manufacturers such as HTC, HP and Fujitsu who already use Windows Mobile, Android will be a very tempting offer for them, one they possibly wont turn down.

This is a very bold move by Nokia, who in the recent past have concentrated on delivering platforms. I would also be interested to see what this means in relation to other manufacturers phones - does Nokia now become responsible for the maintenance of them at all?
 

Munkey

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I dont think it is that bad of a move karym6. In the telecoms scene it was kind of on the cards as Nokia need as much control of UI as possible.By now officially owning Symbian (we all know how much control Nokia had over their R&D anyway). Personally I think Nokia should have moved in around two years ago but the price probabaly would have been higher.

We have been devloping apps for S60 phones for many years and as a developer we love working on the platform as it is very simple and much easier to develop than the Windows platform. Handsets are very simple things and this powerhouse of an OS like Windows Mobile is not really needed. Google with their own proprietary OS is very bad news for developers and the market as well.

Nokia have a 'open garden' mentality that allows for as many people to use and share their resources. Other handset manufacturers dont adopt this philosophy and this 'walled' mentality stifles inovation and the free market.

Although Android is marketed as open source the reality is that a few months or a year down the line they will get tougher with licensing. Google entering the market is a bad thing IMHO, the last thing we need is more control and another OS to develop for.
 
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I can see where you are coming from, yes it is easy to create an S60 app quickly, but it doesnt always mean that it is of good quality. I have seen many S60 apps rushed to market just to make a quick buck that are completely rubbish and end up costing more in support and update after the release. And this is a trick I have seen from many big companies.

With Nokia buying out Symbian, they leave the opposition to either go to Windows Mobile, Linux, Android (when it is released) or create their own OS (like Apple have done). I can see many companies just going for Linux and/or Windows Mobile straight away as it would give them a clear win situation. Some of these companies may go on to create their own OS based of any sucesses they have.

I disagree that Android is bad news, it opens up competition - which is now plainly needed due to Nokia owning Symbian completely. It means that handset manufacturers can now offer an alternative to those MS haters in the form of a Nokia handset or an Android handset. However, I dont like the idea of Google gaining any more control than they already do.

As to Nokia's open policy, yes they do have this in place. When I worked for Nokia they offered anything and everything out. However, this failed when it came to the carriers, who took full advantage of the open policy but never communicated back to Nokia the changes they had made to the base OS. This made support a nightmare. But, owning something like Symbian is a bit of a turnaround for them as they were on the path to community generated platforms already.
 

Munkey

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AH thats really interesting I didn't know that you worked for them. Did you ever get out to Finland? Their HQ has got to be one of the largest I have ever seen. Do you mind if I ask what job you held with them? I know that they are a very generous employer.
 
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I did actually go out to Espoo once, the building was odd as it seems to be all glass - and is surrounded by forest. I was there with my boss, who commented that it reminded him of the deathstar, so much so that whilst he was there, he fully expected a troop of stormtroopers to appear. He also kept doing Darth Vader impersonations.

The package from Nokia in Finland is actually very bad, the wages are awful. However as it is Finland, you get huge amounts of mandatory holiday imposed by the government. So basically for four weeks every summer, the whole country is on holiday. There are other chunks as well, I think there is a two week chunk over christmas. You can also get 12 months paternity leave that needs to be used before your child is 18.

I had various jobs there, I was based in the UK. I started at the bottom as a support analyst, going to an engineering positition (which is what Nokia calls its tech support analysts), I then performed as a regional consultant between Nokia and its various customers. I then moved over to BlackBerry management before working on the Nokia community support discussion board. The wages were still bad though all the way through, even in the UK. I did get the pick on Nokia products however.
 

Munkey

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Thats very interesting karym6. Its seems you have some nice experiences at the Deatstar LOL. Nokia HQ is almost planet like in size, I am happy that you have seen it too.

Yes the wages can fluctuate but the standard of living is very high in Finland. I would much rather earn less and live there. I guess all these holidays can make the Finns a little lazy to work past 5pm but I rate these people as some of the smartest in the world so far as telecoms is concerned (behind the S.Koreans of course)

You used to work on the Nokia forums! I lived in their forums in around 2003 before I discovered the sub forums over at Real (Helix DNA).

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I checked out Android (which was under an Apache license) this initiative is under the eclipse license . Both these licenses are good for commercial development (i.e. changes you make need not be released back - thus providing commercial incenctive for developers to build their own applications).

I think that open source itself is not significant although important. What is needed from Nokia is to create the equivalant of an iPhone commercial ecosystem which is something that is missing from them in a big way. However, this is a good development for the ecosystem in general and I think it will help Nokia strive towards their goal.

I haven't mentioned Vodafone's betavine yet which is based on GPL v2 LOL. Of course open source is not always better than standardization and ultimately I think that the two will coexist. As a small company I think we are more interested in interoperability and both systems do offer a chance of this, its just with Googles track record, I am not too confident of their 'fair play' record.
 
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It seems that Nokia is going to give away Symbian to whoever wants it. I guess having so many large companies involved with it would have stifled its development too much (well, according to Nokia at any rate). I would assume that by owning it completely, they think they can do much more with it by giving it away - the proof of the pudding will be in the eating I suppose. Maybe they are trying to out Google Google?

TBH, Nokia needs to do much more to reinvigorate its market share, I mean look at the iPhone? I have only ever used Nokia phones since I worked with them as they are so easy to use, but come July 11th I will be the proud owner of an iPhone2. not because I dont like Nokia's anymore, but because its just more interesting (I had planned on the N96, but this isnt due untill August).

This does, however, indicate the end of Risc OS in its present guise. Anyone who went to school in England during the 80's/90's should be familiar with an Acorn or BBC computer. The Acorns used Risc OS as its OS, it was very advanced for its time, a lot of the features offered by it were then aped by larger corporations. Due to the fact the the UK doesnt do huge computer manufacturing, Acorn died off and turned into a company called Psion (for all intents and purposes anyway). As some of you well know, Psion rolled out some pretty amazing handheld computers, their zenith arriving with the Psion Series 5 (which I only stopped using during christmas 2006). Again, as the UK doesnt do mini computer manufacturing well either, this company died to. The hardware went to a new company called Psion Dacom and the software turned into Symbian....

The 9210 and 9210i communicators were almost carbon copies of the Psion Series 5MX minus the touch screen interface. They even used the same desktop software on the PC. The tradition continued on to the 6600.

So, basically, all Nokia smartphones/communicators and some SE phones are just the same machine that you played Chuckie Egg on all those years ago when it was a rainy day. Funny how things turn around.

Back to me though, I only started with them in 2004, so I wouldnt have been around when you used those forums. I was also part of the team that launched the general user forums on Nokia.com. The Finns are a bright bunch, but they get spoiled too much, for instance you can take as many years as you like to complete your free under graduate degree. Another clever bunch (and probably more so when it comes to mobiles) are the Swedes.

Finally, the Vodafone proposition will fail. The only winners here will be the platform providers (platforms are the future) and the hardware manufacturers. Vodafone isnt big enough to prove it proposition will be the best, but they have enough worldwide clout to ensure that the hardware to support it is present.