Nokia Buys Symbian, Taking It Open Source

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Nokia is spending some $410 million to buy the 52% of mobile OS developer Symbian that it doesn’t already own, with the intention of turning it into an open-source platform.

Symbian, which powers two-thirds of the world’s smartphones, and 6% of the mobile phone market overall, already faces stiff competition from Microsoft’s Windows Mobile. But it’s the new threats such as the iPhone, Google’s Android platform and the open-source LiMo Foundation that could potentially cause it the most harm, Reuters reports.

This is likely the reason that Nokia has gathered other leading phone makers, operators and chip manufacturers to found the Symbian Foundation and open the platform to any and all developers.

Among those joining Nokia in the creation of the Symbian Foundation are fellow Symbian founders Sony Ericsson, Motorola and NTT Docomo. The companies intend to merge the Symbian OS, Nokia’s S60 platform, Sony Ericsson and Motorola’s UIQ technology and Docomo’s MOAP(S) assets to create an open mobile software platform.

The goal is to provide a unified platform with a common UI framework. At launch, the framework will be available to all Foundation members under a royalty-free license. The foundation also intends to make select components available as open source immediately and expects to have a complete platform released under the open source Eclipse Public License 1.0 within two years.

Other founding Foundation members include operators AT&T and Vodafone, handset makers LG and Samsung and chipmakers STMicroelectronics and Texas Instruments.

“Establishing the Foundation is one of the biggest contributions to an open community ever made,” Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo said in a statement. “Nokia is a strong supporter of open platforms and technologies as they give the freedom to build, maintain and evolve applications and services across device segments and offer by far the largest ecosystem, enabling rapid innovation. Today’s announcement is a major milestone in our devices software strategy.”