Thursday, June 26, 2008

Nokia to buy Symbian, but still no changes in Mobility

Nokia, which had long owned a substantial portion of Symbian, the company behind the popular proprietary mobile operating system of the same name, announced Tuesday that it would be buying the rest of the company, 52% for approximately $410 million. In addition to purchasing Symbian, Nokia will place the code in the hands of a new vendor-neutral organization: The Symbian Foundation.

Symbian is already the leading open platform for mobile devices. Through this acquisition and the establishment of the Symbian Foundation, it will clearly be the most attractive platform for mobile innovation. Hopefully, this will drive the development of new and forceful Web-enabled applications to delight a new generation of consumers. According to sources at Nokia, code will be released to the public for the first time in either the last quarter of 2008 or the first quarter of 2009. All of Symbian OS and its development tools will be made available by 2010. In short, Symbian and its major interfaces are well on their way to becoming a completely open source operating system and development platform. So far, good news.

In my opinion, all Nokia is doing by acquiring Symbian is to make a defensive play, because even as Symbian has grown into the dominant supplier of smartphone operating systems, it is still being challenged by several new strong players. For instance, Google challenged the commercial/business model, stating that its Android platform has reduced the cost of software to almost zero. Also, the LiMo Foundation, a consortium working on a Linux-based operating system for mobile devices, has strong support from network operators, which have been attracted by its governance model. And, of course, no one can ignore Apple and the iPhone as the company has raised the bar from a technical perspective and consumer’s attraction. But, where is Microsoft in this chess game? I just don’t think they might be able to affect the mobile device market. Certainly, Microsoft may go after BlackBerry powerhouse Research In Motion, but at this point, it’s more likely to see RIM/Google or RIM/Nokia, especially with Microsoft still trying to deal with Yahoo.

In summary, this acquisition will solidify Nokia's presence on the mobile market despite anything that Google, LiMo, or Apple can do. However, let’s not forget that it wasn't so long ago that Apple had no mobile phone market share, and betting against Google or Linux has not been a winning proposition in any market lately. More to come for sure…

No comments: