Nokia reveal today its answer to big players from the internet world trying to get an increasingly big share of the mobile world. The handset manufacturer bought the remaining 52% of Symbian shares it doesn’t already own and along with other leading companies in the mobile industry, created the Symbian Foundation.
With mobile applications and services becoming increasingly important control over platforms on which they are created is getting more and more contested. Google has declared its intentions of becoming a major force in the future of mobile applications by creating its own operating system, Android.
Google’s solution is open source, meaning anyone can develop applications for it freely. Although the first handset equipped with the Android platform is yet to come to the market, Google has managed to create a lot of interest around the technology.
Symbian operating system is currently the dominant player in the market, with 60% of the handsets using the OS. But Symbian has, until now, charged a licensing fee for the software, while the Android platform has reduced the cost of software ‘close to zero’, according to Google. However, the Symbian Foundation will make the operating system open source too.
Apple too has become a threatening force in the mobile world, raising the bar in terms of consumer expectations.
Nokia’s executive vice president, Kai Öistämö, however, denies the move is a reaction to Android or anything else. He said: ‘This is a market making move. To look at it as a reaction doesn’t give justice to the boldness of what we are doing. We are making this asset, which has shipped 200 million units, royalty free.’
The foundation hopes to increase innovation in the mobile application space by making the operating system open source.
Nokia insists that acquiring Symbian is a good investment, although the company will stop collecting licensing fees. ‘There are the benefits of streamlining the software. We create efficiency. The number of engineers creating applications in the whole ecosystem will be multiplied – it will be more than we could ever do within the company. It will bring more innovative products to the market faster, and [on the back of it]we hope to sell more phones and end to end devices,’ Öistämö said.
He also emphasised the benefits of integrating the Symbian employees into Nokia. ‘We will get highly talented, highly skilled people to Nokia,’ he said.
The operator view
Vodafone is not committing itself to one operating system, although the company sits on the board of the Symbian Foundation.
However, there are benefits for the operator from the Symbian operating system becoming open source, Guido Arnone, director of terminals at Vodafone told Mobile.
The open source system reduces porting costs – the cost of making the application compatible with a number of different handsets – which are roughly half of application development costs. Having one open operating system would make it simpler to get Vodafone Live! on different handsets.
There are some indirect saving to be made too, including benefits from having to train customer services staff in fewer technologies, Arnone adds.
And in the end the benefits would trickle down to customers, he said. ‘Consumers will see more compelling applications, they will have a wider choice of applications and the price of applications will be lower,’ he said.