Cutting Room – Issue 417


Nokia has been on an acquisition drive since it announced Ovi and its ambitions to become an internet company last year, so the news it has bought out the remaining Symbian shares is hardly a shock.

Nokia acquisitions over the past year include advertising firm Enpocket, digital mapping company NAVTEQ, and most recently social network Plazes. It’s clearly setting itself to have a finger in as many content pies as possible. And with the unified platform distributed by its new Symbian Foundation, there’s a frame to house the nearly complete jigsaw.

Nokia execs were quick to palm off suggestions the move was to thwart the impending Google/Open Handset Alliance Android platform, which promised to be in handsets by the end of this year.

And the solidity of the smartphone platforms of computing behemoths Microsoft and Apple cannot be ignored either.

"It’s a nice PR line, but, when they say, ‘this is where the market is moving’, that’s what they mean,’ an analyst told Mobile News.

The fact Symbian’s platform promises to do exactly the same as Android – a simple user interface with quick access to important applications, quicker time to market for handsets, easier for developers to innovate, and the potential to reduce software costs – is not necessarily a bad thing.

In fact, reinventing the wheel, as Google is trying to do with Android, should arguably be left to those who made a mess of it in the first place, utilising the experience and scale Symbian has accrued over 10 years – Symbian is used in 60 per cent of the world’s smartphones.

Beyond the PR line, Nokia was right to an extent when it said: "this is where the market is moving"; as then-Vodafone chief executive Arun Sarin mentioned at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year; there is a need to cut the number of mobile operating systems from around 40 to less than five.

Sarin also said he would not support Android until he could be sure Google wouldn’t use the technology to control the mobile internet, pushing its own services over those of the networks.

So far so good for Nokia and its partners, except analysts say the fly in the ointment is the two year turnaround for the first unified Symbian platform to be used in handsets.

If it can speed things up, it ticks all the boxes – it is set to drive higher content use and therefore network ARPU and device volumes and potentially cheaper smartphones for the mass market.

Which is one way of viewing the importance of the announcement.