Updated: Big news in the mobile operating system world today: Nokia is bidding to acquire the 52 million remaining shares it does not already own of Symbian Ltd. for $410 million.
Nokia said Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB, Ericsson, Panasonic and Siemens had accepted the offer for their Symbian stakes; Samsung is the holdout, but Nokia expects it to accept the deal. These firms together own the 48 percent Nokia does not own.
To help circle the wagons, Nokia, AT&T, LG Electronics, Motorola, NTT Docomo, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments and Vodafone are creating the Symbian Foundation.
Nokia will contribute the Symbian OS and its S60 software assets, while Sony Ericsson and Motorola will contribute their UIQ user interface and Docomo has pledged to contribute its MOAP assets. The Foundation will use these assets to provide a unified platform with a common UI for all Foundation members under a royalty-free license.
Folks, this is Nokia officially declaring war on Google and Apple in the wireless device and software market at a time when consumers and mobile workers are increasingly accessing the Web through mobile devices.
Smartphones are the future for not only for mobile Internet access by consumers and mobile workers. Nokia and Apple want to sell phones, while Google wants users to use phones that leverage Android.
All three aim to offer Internet services on them. Apple looks to sell services, but Google and Nokia see the future in online mobile advertising.
Google through its open Android mobile operating system hopes to challenge the Symbian OS, as well as gadgets based on Microsoft's Windows Mobile OS, Apple's iPhone and Palm phones.
Ironically, this comes a day after the Wall Street Journal cast a gimlet-eyed gaze on Google's Android platform by saying it would be late. Did the Journal's sources spring from Nokia to plant some tactical, competitive seeds prior to today's announcement?
ReadWriteWeb's Richard McManus supposes this is about:
"Nokia wanting to have more control over both the hardware and software side of its business, similar to how Apple has created its own operating system for the iPhone."
Ah, the theories abound. In the meantime, here is what we know so far.
Nokia sells 40 percent of all phones globally. Symbian Limited develops and licenses Symbian OS, which according to Canalys and other researchers is found in 60 percent or more of smartphones, the very gadgets Google is targeting with Android and the same iPhones that Apple is so successfully selling.
The purchase of the leading smartphone OS maker by the leading phone maker makes quite the statement.
Google wants phones based on its Android platform to leverage its search technology, as well as its collaboration applications, such as Gmail, Calendar and Docs. These all happen to be the way users access Google via the desktop.
Google believes that if it can duplicate the desktop experience users have using its search and Apps on the mobile phone, preferably Android-based devices optimized for Google's software, the company will be able to command a great deal of the mobile advertising market.
This happens to be a green field that many providers are positioning to take advantage of. Nokia realizes this and does not want Google to get too far ahead because it is has mobile Internet designs of its own.
Nokia just yesterday purchased Plazes, which develops Web platforms for location sharing and publishing. This is sort of a Twitter and Loopt rolled in one, according to ReadWriteWeb.
Google earlier this year acquired two mobile social application providers, Zingku and Jaiku.
Nokia bought digital maps provider Navteq for $8.1 billion, but also owns mobile advertising firm Enpocket and other digital media assets.
Apple meanwhile is behind on location services, but it's second iteration of the iPhone is cheaper and will likely lead to more handset sales, as well as Web service sales, for the company.
Now, will Nokia's all-out Symbian buy have a bearing on Google's Android rollout? That's hard to say. What I do believe is that the pressure is now firmly on Google to bring Android phones to the market before the end of the year as promised.
Failure to do this will cast serious doubt on the effort as we move into 2009 and Nokia and Apple ramp up their mobile Web services offerings.