Symbian Sells a Stake to Samsung

Korea’s Samsung Electronics took a 5 percent stake in mobile smartphone software maker Symbian, following up on the licensing deal that it signed with the London-based company last October.

Symbian has been busy forging alliances and establishing itself as an alternative to Microsoft’s wireless-based Windows smartphones. The company also has sold stakes to Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Siemens, Motorola and Matsushita. Psion is also a shareholder.

Samsung will pay about $27 million for a share of Symbian, which was spun off from Psion in 1998. Samsung already is planning its first Symbian OS product, a global data-enabled phone using the Series 60 user interface, which Samsung licensed from Nokia.

The deal was announced in Cannes, France at the 3GSM Congress, a gathering for the worldwide wireless industry. At the same meeting, Microsoft announced that Germany’s T-Mobile, a unit of Deutsche Telekom, will buy handsets made by Taiwan contract manufacturer High Tech Computer. T-Mobile said it will add its own services on the device, which will carry all standard Microsoft features such as email, messaging, picture taking and a calendar.

Still, Symbian OS licensees account for more than 80 percent of worldwide mobile phone sales, according to recent Gartner Dataquest estimates.

“Symbian will be a good asset,” Samsung’s Sang-jin Park, senior vice president and general manager for wireless services, was quoted as saying. However Samsung also has deals with Microsoft and Palm and just released the SGH-i700, a GSM/GPRS-enabled PDA with a built-in phone and camera, much like devices sold by Sony Ericsson and Nokia.

Publicly announced products based on Symbian OS include the NTT DoCoMo FOMA F2051 built by Fujitsu, Sony Ericsson P800 Smartphone, Nokia 9210 Communicator range as well as the 7650, 3650 and N-Gage.

Meanwhile, Nokia and Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications have agreed to bolster the momentum behind Symbian OS by aligning tools for the UIQ and Series 60 terminal software platforms and by creating an application certification program.

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