Nokia Continues Symbian Push

The wireless equipment manufacturer last week kicked off the Nokia Mobile Challenge, a series of contests to encourage developers to build applications for the Symbian operating system

Nokia Corp. is backing a number of efforts in support of the Symbian operating system, part of the phone makers push for mass adoption of the OS in the industry.

The Espoo, Finland wireless equipment manufacturer this week kicked off the Nokia Mobile Challenge, a series of contests to encourage developers to build applications for the Symbian operating system and for Nokias new smart phones. Application categories include communications, entertainment, and "productivity enhancers."

This is the last of a recent series of moves to push Symbian to developers. The company announced that Borland Software Corp. will support Nokias Series 60 voice and data platform with its Jbuilder and Jbuilder MobileSet developer tools. Additionally, Borland will develop a C++ development environment, due in the first half of 2002, for platforms based on the Symbian operating system.

Nokia last week announced that it will license the Series 60 platform, which runs on Symbian, to other phone makers. Nokia officials said last week that the company is encouraging industry-wide adoption of the Symbian. So far Nokia is Symbians main supporter even though a consortium of several phone companies created Symbian.

"[Symbian] has become captive to Nokia," said Ken Dulaney, vice president of mobile computing and storage at the Gartner Group, a San Jose, Calif., analyst firm.

For phones, the Symbian OS is designed to support complex wireless data and Internet applications. But some companies that used to be bullish on Symbian now are shying away. Ericsson AB, for example, was one of Symbians founders.

The company has one Symbian-based product, its R380 smart phone, which has been on the market in Europe for almost two years and in the United States for several month. The phone started out selling for the equivalent of $600. Now the price is around $199.

The phone has a devoted but narrow audience, and the company does not see a need to launch more Symbian phones until the audience grows, according to officials at Ericsson, which recently launched a joint alliance with Sony Corp. to run Ericssons handset business.

Nokia and Ericsson do seem to agree, though, on the future of multi-media messaging.

Nokia late last month introduced a new MMS phone with a built-in camera, the idea being that users can capture images and then send them over the airwaves along with text messaging. The Nokia 7650 also includes a built-in photo album, a 176X208 pixel color display and a joystick for navigation. The phone supports GSM 900 and 1800 networks and will run on GPRS. Initially it is available solely in Europe. Also on the MMS front, Symbian and Beatnik Inc. Last week announced plans to create multimedia entertainment services for wireless networks using Beatniks Audio Engine over the Symbian OS.

At Fall Comdex recently, and again in Barcelona, Nokia Chairman and CEO Jorma Ollila said that by 2003, all new Nokia phones will be equipped with MMS capabilities.

Sony Ericsson, meanwhile, plans to put more effort behind mid-range phones such as the T68, a small phone that supports MMS. The phone, which runs on GSM, will be available in the United States early next year if carriers approve it, officials said.