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Symbian Targets Open Source Developers With Free Development Tool

Nokia is taking a gamble by making the Symbian platform, a USD 410 million acquisition, open source, in a bid to build enough momentum to fend off rivals like Apple and Google.

Having decided to setup a not-for-profit Symbian foundation, The Finnish phone manufacturer will make the operating system royalty-free from the first half of 2009 and already 52 companies have signed in including the likes of Samsung, Motorola, Sony Ericsson and LG, all of which are Nokia's competitor in the handset market.

Although Symbian still holds the upper hand in the booming Smartphone segment with a 57 percent marketshare, compared to RIM's 17.4 percent and Windows Mobile 12 percent. But Apple's iPhone and Google's Android platform threaten to eat into Symbian's share, which has already fallen a whopping 9 percent over a year as the pie is increasing in size but Nokia's sales stall.

But Nokia sees further than smartphones with Symbian. It is also eyeing the equally phenomenal market of embedded or embarked operating systems which would include anything from fridges to cameras, satnav and MP3 players.

Other companies which made open source jump include AOL with Mozilla, and ultimately Firefox and Sun Microsystems which open sourced Staroffice to create Open Office, both of which are now open source giants.

With more device manufacturers onboard, Nokia hopes that it will cut the time to market of new products. However, it will remain interesting to see whether Nokia's own immediate competitors will choose Symbian or Google's Android which doesn't have any presence in the mobile phone market.

Nearly 20 million Symbian-based mobile phones were sold in Q2 2008 which brought the overall total of units shipped to more than 223 million by June this year.

Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.