Nokia Announces Symbianese Liberation Army

Published on June 24, 2008
by John Paczkowski

The mobile market is heating up to a roiling boil, isn’t it? This morning Nokia (NOK) said it plans to acquire the 52% of mobile software outfit Symbian that it does not already own in a cash deal valued at about $410 million. But rather than roll up the company’s operations into its own, it’s turning them over to the newly formed Symbian Foundation.

A not-for-profit venture, the Symbian Foundation–which includes Motorola (MOT), Samsung, Sony Ericsson (SNE) and LG Electronics (LGERF.PK)–will steward the Symbian OS as a royalty-free open mobile platform. And that’s a pretty big deal, because Symbian is by far the world’s leading smart-phone software platform. It controls a 60% share of the market with 200 million handsets running its software.

Strategically, the formation of the Symbian Foundation and the opening of the Symbian platform is an aggressive pre-emptive strike against Google (GOOG), its Open Handset Alliance and its open-source Android mobile platform. Perfectly timed too, since Android seems to be falling behind schedule. “It offers us an opportunity to innovate faster on a bigger, united, more widely accepted platform,” Kai Oistamo, head of Nokia’s devices business, told Reuters. “It also enables us to deliver new products, we believe, faster to the market. I’m convinced we will sell more products.”

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