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Symbian Turns Up the Heat

Mobile device platform vendor Symbian turned up the heat this week in an attempt to stave off both Microsoft and Palm in the race for the hearts and dollars of developers of wireless communicator devices that combine personal information management and telephony capabilities.

The company used its Symbian Developer Expo in London earlier this week to announce that Siemens had taken a five percent stake. Other co-owners of Symbian include Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and Matsushita.

However, Symbian also took steps to beef up development of applications for devices using its platform and broadened the number of platforms on which the Symbian OS will run.

Specifically, it announced that the latest version of its operating system has been tweaked to run with chipmaker Intel's latest microarchitecture for mobile devices. It made similar announcements with Motorola, whose DragonBall processors compete with Intel's, and with ARM, which develops much of the underlying technology for those processors.

In addition, the company said it would open its source code with specific development partners that belong to the so-called Symbian Platinum Program.

However, the code won't be open in the sense that full open source platforms are, such as Linux. Rather, Symbian will allow developers in the program the same access to source code that it already has given to mobile phone manufacturers.

"By opening up our Symbian OS source code to developers and mobile phone manufacturers we will further build on the momentum already established to create a mass market for mobile data services," said David Wood, Symbian's executive vice president for partnering evangelism and research.

Given that many of the world's wireless manufacturers of wireless devices co-own Symbian, it's not surprising that it has taken an early, though unofficial, lead in the market for wireless communicators. the company's CEO, David Levin, sounded the battle clarion Wednesday at the conference. He didn't mention Microsoft by name, but his implication was clear.

"One size doesn't fit all in this market," Levin told developers. "There are one billion people using mobile phones this year. This is not the PC world."

Microsoft has stepped up its push into the wireless phone market with two variations on its Windows CE.NET them: Pocket PC Phone Edition and its Smartphone 2002 platform. So far, many of the major vendors co-own Symbian have rallied to Symbian's cause while second-tier vendors, such as Sendo, have thrown support to Microsoft's platforms.

Palm also is working hard to be a factor in the communicator platform market. The most visible product based on the Palm platform is Handspring's Treo communicator.

David Haskin is managing editor of sister site, allNetDevices.