Symbian to Work With Google on OS?

Nigel Clifford

Symbian CEO Nigel Clifford

Source: Symbian

TOKYO — U.K.-based smartphone software maker Symbian said on Wednesday it could expand its collaboration with Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) to the operating system level as it moves to grant free and open access to its software platform.

“We already work together, and so whatever collaboration, if there is an opportunity, we will be happy to collaborate with them,” Symbian chief executive Nigel Clifford told reporters in Tokyo.

“And that could be on the application level or that could be on the more fundamental operating system level,” he said.

Symbian currently uses Google applications such as maps and search engines on its platforms.

Symbian software is used in some 60 percent of smartphones — mobile handsets with computer-like capabilities — but Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone or new categories of phones based on Google’s Android software could challenge that dominance.

Symbian’s closest rivals are Linux-based phones and Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows Mobile operating system, but they occupy only 12 percent and 11 percent of the market, respectively, according to data provided by Symbian.

Nokia (NYSE: NOK), which holds 47.9 percent of Symbian, said last month it would buy out other shareholders of Symbian for $410 million and make its software available to other phone makers without charging royalties, in response to new rivals such as Google.

Nokia will contribute Symbian’s assets to a new not-for-profit organization, Symbian Foundation, in which it will unite with leading handset makers, network operators and communications chipmakers to create an open-source platform.

Members of the Symbian Foundation include Sony Ericsson, Motorola (NYSE: MOT), NTT DoCoMo, AT&T (NYSE: T), LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN) and Vodafone Group (NYSE: VOD).

Nokia will give Symbian and its S60 software assets to the foundation, while other members said they will lend their UIQ and MOAP software to create a joint Symbian platform in 2009.

Symbian was formed a decade ago in London by a consortium of top mobile handset makers looking for a standardized way of building software to run new phones.

It was the descendant of software used to run Psion electronic organizers popular with business professionals in the 1990s.

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