RealTime IT News

Motorola Sells Stake in Symbian Venture

Motorola is selling off its 19 percent stake in Symbian, the software company that licenses the Symbian operating system for next generation, data-enabled mobile devices, a spokesman for the wireless device maker said Friday.

Motorola's 19 percent stake in the Symbian venture will be split by Nokia and Psion, with Nokia becoming the biggest shareholder in the ownership consortium. Sony Ericsson, Panasonic, Siemens and Samsung are the other handset manufacturers that are members of the Symbian wireless operating system alliance.

Psion said it would pay Motorola $27.46 million for its portion of Symbian shares. Although Nokia didn't discuss the details of its share transfer, it did say the overall value of the Symbian venture is more than $470 million.

With the realignment of ownership, both Nokia and Psion will be hiking their stakes in the company. Nokia currently holds a 19 percent stake and will be upping that to 32.2 percent, while Psion will increase its Symbian stake from 25.3 percent to 31 percent. Both share transfer deals need regulatory and shareholder approval.

Whether for financial or strategic reasons, Motorola decided to go in a different direction with its sell-off. It said it would focus on shifting development resources to Sun Microsystems Java programming language for wireless devices.

"We believe Java is what ultimately provides our customers worldwide with the most optimized and differentiated mobile experiences," Motorola said in a statement.

Motorola's decision to leave the Symbian joint venture comes as the first mass market 3G phones are slated to hit the market in late 2003 and early 2004. Motorola is expected to make some 3G smart phones based on the Symbian operating system, but will no longer be a stakeholder in the joint venture.

Microsoft Corp. is also interested in the emerging market for the mobile operating system that will run a variety of applications on 3G and other advanced networks and devices.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Motorola announced the release of the first Symbian-based 3G phone. The Motorola A920 handset will be marketed to customers of "3," which is Hutchison Whampoa's 3G service in the United Kingdom and Italy on its 3G network.

The new Motorola 3G phone unveiled on Thursday sports a 208 x 320 16-bit color screen, with an integrated 640 x480 digital camera, a MP3 player, and GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) guidance system.

Applications, including games, which are written in Java will run on the Symbian operating systems Java virtual machine. Motorola's A920 uses version 7 or the Symbian OS and utilizes its UIQ pen-based user interface, the same system used on Sony Ericsson's P800.

While Motorola didn't disclose the amount of memory packed into the A920 handest, it is expected to be 8MB, with the potential of being expanded to 256MB using SD cards.

The Motorola A920 is a tri-band GSM/GPRS/UMTS device operating at 900/1800/1900/2100 Mhz, and weighs 7.48 ounces, not making it one of the lightest devices on the market. But the device does have PDA functionality, infrared and USB ports, touch screen capabilities, video playback, voice dialing, voice recording, e-mail client, hand-free speaker features, and a range of polyphonic ring tones.

Hutchison and Motorola say that subscribers will have "person-to-person video calling capabilities, as well as its exclusive video content."

"The revolutionary Motorola A920 sets a new standard for the mobile industry and brings enhanced functionality to customers of 3's video mobile network. A mobile phone, video and still camera, a PDA, an MP3 player and gaming capability have been combined into one product," the companies said.

"The A920 runs on a version of the open operating system, Symbian OS v7.0 and incorporates the latest pen-based user interface by UIQ. Applications can be downloaded, such as games based on Java and C++, from 3. This will allow consumers to update their handsets regularly with new applications and content," the companies added.

Motorola's first 3G phone is expected to be commercially available sometime in September, but the precise pricing of the phones and subscriptions on Hutchison's 3 network are still not clear.

Motorola's stock is up nearly 35 percent since February, but shares were trading lower Friday, after Morgan Stanley said the stock is fully valued.

Morgan Stanley analyst Arindam Basu said in a research report about Motorola that an oversupply of handsets may make it more difficult for manufacturers to introduce new products. In a note issued Friday morning, Basu cut his stock rating on Motorola to "equal weight" from "overweight."