Nokia Buys Symbian To Give It Away

Unbridled generosity for the good of the mobile phone industry (Windows Mobile, mobile Mac OS X and Android apart...)

It is not everyday in this cut throat industry that you see many moves for the greater good, but those generous Finns just made one…

Having snuggled up to Symbian for many years, Nokia has taken the Victor Kiam approach and bought it for a total outlay of €264m. This would seemingly be bad news for the likes of fellow Symbian dabblers like Motorola and Sony Ericsson but nope, here’s the remarkable bit: it then used it to create the non-profit ‘Symbian Foundation’.

That’s right, I said “non-profit” because Nokia, having shelled out all this cash, has created this organisation to unify the three (increasingly blurred) Symbian flavours – Nokia’s S60 as seen on the impending N96 (above), SE’s UIQ and DoCoMo’s MOAP(S) – into a single UI layer all given away royalty free. Technically, there’s a $1,500 per year membership to the Symbian Foundation but are the likes early partners Texas Instruments, Vodafone, Samsung, LG and AT&T going to struggle with that? I think not.

Of course the entire move is also a clever pre-emptive strike against (most prominently) Google’s open source Android OS though it is also likely to rankle feathers at Apple and Microsoft. Ambitiously, the entire unified Symbian OS is also scheduled to go completely open source inside two years with “selective components” at launch.

Yes my minions, this is likely to cause as much of a sea change in mobile phone operating systems as anything Google has announced (though it may be argued one led to the other) and could well make App Store on the iPhone look penny pinching and restrictive.

One thing’s for sure: the ramifications and permutations from this are going to be felt for many years to come…

Symbian Foundation Creation
Symbian Purchase

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