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Siemens Buys into Symbian

The race to be the leading software platform provider for mobile Net devices heated up Wednesday as German giant Siemens Information and Communication Mobile became a co-owner of mobile operating system vendor Symbian.

And in another victory for the U.K.-based Symbian, Motorola's semiconductor group said that it was committed to having its DragonBall MX1 processor for mobile devices work with all versions of the Symbian OS.

Symbian is a consortium by the world's leading mobile device vendors. Siemens now holds a five percent stake in Symbian while Sony/Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia own 20 percent stakes. Matsushita, which owns the Panasonic brand, has an 8.4 percent stake and Psion, which initially developed the Symbian platform, owns a 26.6 percent.

Siemens paid $20.3 million for its five percent stake in Symbian. The investment gives Siemens a seat on Symbian's supervisory board and enables them to contribute to future product development and strategy, the companies said in a statement.

"This latest agreement between Symbian and Siemens Mobile is ... a clear signal to the market and all application developers," said Rudi Lamprecht, a member of Siemens' managing board.

In a statement, Siemens said that the move not only was an investment, but that it also strengthened the company's commitment to using Symbian OS for its future smart phones. Siemens' worldwide market share for wireless devices has grown rapidly in the last two years and most market share studies have found it is now one of the top five wireless device vendors.

Symbian has been vying with Microsoft and Palm to be the leading provider of the software platform for wireless devices that combine telephony and handheld functionality. Palm has had some success with its platform, most notably with Handspring's Treo device. Microsoft has had a bit less success with its so-called smartphone platform, which is based on the Windows CE kernel.

Symbian's ownership, however, virtually guarantees significant adoption of the platform by leading device vendors. Siemens already has based some so-called smart phones, which combine handheld and telephony functionality, on the OS.

In addition to licensing the operating system to its owners, Symbian also has licensed the OS to vendors such as Philips, Sony and Sanyo.

In its separate announcement, the company said it currently was working on making the DragonBall processor work with Symbian OS 6.1 and, later, would make it work with version 7.0, which is the current version.

David Haskin is managing editor of sister site allNetDevices.com.