Symbian banking on open source success
Supporters of the mobile phone platform are hoping that Nokia’s open source ambitions for Symbian will boost its popularity in the booming smartphone sector.
Ahead of the Symbian Smartphone Show, which opens in London later today, users of the smartphone operating system are talking-up the prospects for platform despite growing competition and market saturation.
Users hope that making the software freely available will help it regain the market share it has lost to the likes of Apple and combat the threat of new market entrants such as Google's Android platform.
The two-day conference is the first since Nokia announced in June it would buy out its partners in UK-based Symbian for $410 million (240 million) and make its software royalty-free to all phone makers.
Nokia decided to set up the not-for-profit Symbian Foundation and make the 10-year old operating system open source and free from the first half of 2009.
However, competitors have eroded Symbian's market share to 57 per cent in the second quarter of 2008, down from 66 per cent in the same period a year ago. BlackBerry maker RIM had 17.4 per cent of the market and devices running Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform had 12 per cent, according to research firm Gartner.
"Being the top dog is hard to maintain when you have more and more competition," Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi said. "In the long run they will see share decline as Apple, RIM and Microsoft are trying to get into the consumer market."
Symbian, which is backed by Samsung, Motorola, AT&T, Sony Ericsson and LG, has been left behind by demand for touch technology, which was kicked off by Apple's iPhone.
Symbian's executive vice president of research, David Wood, expects that sweeping away licensing fees will generate fresh excitement around the platform.
"There's been a great deal of interest from long-term partners and new partners," he said. "The biggest change is ease of access - you don't need to negotiate a licence."
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