I didn’t see this one coming
Espoo, Finland – Nokia today announced it has launched a cash offer to acquire all of the shares of Symbian Limited that Nokia does not already own, at a price of EUR 3.647 per share. The net cash outlay from Nokia to purchase the approximately 52% of Symbian Limited shares it does not already own will be approximately EUR 264 million
London, UK – Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and NTT DOCOMO announced today their intent to unite Symbian OS(TM), S60, UIQ and MOAP(S) to create one open mobile software platform. Together with AT&T, LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments and Vodafone they plan to establish the Symbian Foundation to extend the appeal of this unified software platform.
Contributions from Foundation members through open collaboration will be integrated to further enhance the platform. The Foundation 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. This will be made available over the next two years and is intended to be released under Eclipse Public License (EPL) 1.0.
This tells me two things.
- The providers are rattled by Apple’s iPhone and they want to have more control over the OS they run on their phones. Symbian has, for a long time, been derided as an also-ran in the embedded operating system market and damaged by the friction between licensees and their fracturing of the code base and interfaces.
- The providers are not convinced by Google’s Android. Android handsets were meant to be shipping in the second half of 2008 and we’re seeing maybe one or two providers that seem to be getting there. We’ve seen very little other than technology demos and it’s my gut feeling that there was a large amount of overpromise and underdeliver. As Android still doesn’t look as polished as iPhone did 6 months before introduction, we’re going to have to wait even longer.
Is making Symbian open source going to be enough? Over the last year, Apple has sold 6 million iPhones and a couple of million touch iPods. And they’re probably going to double that number over the summer. Nokia ships that many phones in a week. It’s a small percentage of the overall mobile market but like in the computer and MP3 player market, Apple is not going for the bargain basement Â£25 Pay-As-You-Go market but rather the market for premium phones.
It’s estimated that 1 billion phones will ship in 2008 and around 10% of them (100 million) will be smartphones. For Q4 2007, Symbian had 65% of the Smartphone market measured by operating system. Windows mobile was 12%, RIM 11 % and Apple a mere 7% (which, from nothing, is impressive). It’s expected that these figures will differ slightly by year end.
It was easy to make an analogy with the general computing market. Symbian was the big presence in the market, Apple was Apple as usual and the upstart Google was going to be the ‘Linux’ of the story. The lines, however, have been redrawn and Symbian being open source should benefit considerably from the media attention.
The mobile phone operating system war just got really interesting.