Does Merging Android, Symbian into a Single OS Make Sense?

An analyst argues that a marriage between the open-source mobile operating systems of Symbian and Android would be good for both Google and Nokia. The analyst contends that Nokia and other users of Symbian, principally Motorola, DoCoMo and Sony Ericsson, don't want to compete in the mobile operating system market.

Symbian, the open-source mobile operating system that powers the largest share of smart phones on the market, and Android, Google's much-ballyhooed open-source mobile operating system, currently under development, will merge and become one open-source mobile operating system within the next three to six months, according to analyst Jack Gold.

Gold, president and principal analyst at J. Gold Associates, contends that the mobile platform market needs some level of consolidation as developers struggle to meet the needs of divergent platforms. Symbian, the platform on which most Nokia cell phones run, and Google's Android would be a perfect match, Gold said in a research note.

"The need for openness and a level playing field is exactly why Google decided to enter the mobile device OS marketplace," Gold wrote. "And it is also why they are likely to get out if this task can be accomplished by others."

Gold argued that Nokia and other users of Symbian, principally Motorola, DoCoMo and Sony Ericsson, ultimately do not want to compete in the operating system market. Gold said it is more important that they provide a compelling user experience, including service offerings that keep users loyal to their brands and generate substantial revenues for the companies.

Google, he said, is diluting its potential profit in building cross-platform applications by investing in Android.

"Having an open-source OS that is adopted by a broad array of device manufacturers allows them to better compete for additional business by allowing sales of games, music, videos, apps and other services even on those devices not manufactured by their own company," Gold wrote.

In addition, Gold contended, a Symbian-Android marriage would create a compelling reason to deploy a mobile open-source platform. "They could now provide a standard platform while sourcing from multiple vendors (similar to Microsoft's Windows Mobile)," Gold wrote.

Gold also suggested that a Symbian-Android match might help "remove the carrier 'throttles' that are currently in place when carriers create unique user experiences on specifically altered and customized devices in order to maintain customer control, but which is also suppressing the growth of apps."

Nokia announced June 24 it was acquiring the remaining 52 million shares it does not already own of Symbian for $410 million. Nokia said Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications, 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.

The move by Nokia was widely considered an aggressive attack on Google and Apple in the wireless device and software market.

"A combination of the Android and Symbian efforts would be good for the industry, good for Google and good for Symbian," Gold wrote. "It would also help spur a growth in the availability of applications and services. The downside is minimal. Everyone wins."