Motorola Sells Stake in Symbian

Motorola Inc. is selling its 20 percent stake in Symbian Ltd.

Motorola Inc. is selling its 20 percent stake in Symbian Ltd., a London-based consortium that makes operating systems for high-end phones, further marking the companys intent to focus on Java- and Linux-based handsets.

The Schaumburg, Ill., company said it plans to split its shares between fellow consortium members Psion plc. and Nokia Corp. After the transaction, Psions share in Symbian will increase from 25.3 to 31.1 percent, and Nokias shares will increase from 19 to 32 percent. Erics-son AB, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Matsushita Electric Corp. of America (Panasonic), Siemens Enterprise Networks LLC and Sony Erics-son Mobile Communications Inc. also own stakes in Symbian, which was founded in 1998. Nokia remains the biggest proponent of the Symbian operating system because its Series 60 development platform runs on top of it.

Industry observers had mixed reactions to Motorolas decision to shed its Symbian shares.

"In some ways its a good move, especially if they want to go in the Java direction," said Fran Rabuck, president of Philadelphia-based mobile technology consultancy Rabuck Associates and an eWEEK Corporate Partner. "Even if they were an equal-share partner in Symbian, Nokia was driving the thing."

"In my opinion, it is a mistake," said Ken Dulaney, an analyst at Gartner Inc., in San Jose, Calif. "They are terrible at software, and [Motorola] will have trouble getting software developers for an environment that only operates on Motorola."

Motorola remains a licensee of Symbian. In fact, the company late last month unveiled its first Symbian-based handset, the A920.

Initially available in Europe through Hutchison 3G UK Ltd.s "3" brand, the A920 is a multimedia device that includes a phone, video and still camera and Version 7.0 of the Symbian operating system. It also functions as a gaming console.

The device offers a 65,000-color screen, an expansion slot for extra memory, and the ability to download applications based on the Java and C++ programming languages.