TELECOMS & MOBILE
Samsung joins the Symbian party
In the midst of its fight to steal market share from Pocket PC and Palm OS, mobile device software maker Symbian said it had licensed its technology to Samsung.
The Korean electronics giant, the third largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world, has agreed to license the Symbian operating system for use in its smartphones for 2.5G and 3G networks worldwide. Samsung will be using Symbian as part of the Series 60 user interface which Samsung has licensed from Finnish mobile phone giant Nokia.
"This could be considered as a big win for Symbian, because Samsung used to work with Palm," said Simon Buckingham, chief executive officer wireless consultancy Mobile Streams. "Samsung produce tier-one handsets and are in ascendancy as a company." But Buckingham cautioned that there is little benefit in licensing technology to the top handset manufacturers, unless those manufacturers are actually shipping handsets that run on Symbian.
"Symbian holds all of the cards, but it doesn't bother to deal them," said Buckingham. "Because of delays at Nokia and Ericsson, there is only one phone on the market that actually runs Symbian. It's all very well to announce another licensee, but until you start shipping phones it doesn't really matter."
Samsung now joins Nokia, Motorola, Matsushita, Siemens and Sony Ericsson as the latest licensee of the operating system. However, unlike the other licensed Symbian users, Samsung has not chosen to purchase a stake in Symbian. In April Siemens joined the software consortium, taking a 5 percent stake in Symbian for STG14.5 million.
At the time of the Siemens investment, Psion was the majority shareholder of Symbian with 26.6 percent, while Nokia, Motorola and Sony-Ericsson each held 20 percent. Matsushita (Panasonic) had an 8.4 percent shareholding.
Symbian competitor Microsoft is also gaining ground in the market, it was announced last week, after French mobile phone operator Orange said that it planned to release a phone that uses the Microsoft Windows Smartphone 2002 operating system. According to reports, the new phone will allow users to view streaming video clips from Orange's Ananova, the news service with a computer-generated female news reader.
Buckingham said that Symbian does not compete in the same market as Smartphone, because the Smartphone 2002 operating system is designed for traditional handsets, whereas Symbian is designed for so-called next-generation phones, like the Nokia and Sony Ericsson camera-phones. "Smartphone is a phenomenal device," said Buckingham. "Microsoft has finally gotten it right."