Symbian Shifts OS Focus

Symbian is targeting its OS sales on licensees that build their own user interfaces on top of the OS.

LAS VEGAS—While once focused on a common user interface for phones, British mobile consortium Symbian Ltd. now is concentrating simply on selling the Symbian operating system to myriad licensees that build their own user interfaces on top of the OS, announced officials at the CTIA Wireless IT show here on Wednesday.

For example, Nokia Corp. early next year plans to start shipping in North America the Nokia 3650, a phone with a built-in camera that runs Nokias Series 60 platform on top of version 6.1 of the Symbian OS.

Nokia has been pushing for widespread adoption of Series 60, but Symbian officials said that Symbian sees Series 60 as ideal primarily for phones designed for one-handed operation.

"They will get everyone to license it, which is fine for this kind of phone, said Peter Bankcroft, vice president of communications for Symbian in London.

Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications Inc., meanwhile, plans to ship a pen-based phone, called the P-800 (click here to see photo), worldwide in the first quarter of next year. Also based on the Symbian OS, the phone runs on a platform called UIQ.

Bankcroft said that more than four other user interfaces running on top of Symbian are expected in the next year, primarily from Asian hardware licensees. But he added that individual carriers are interested in building their own user interfaces from the ground up, so that they can distinguish their offerings from those of other carriers and personalize them beyond a simple nameplate.

"We got out of the whole user interface bit ourselves last year," Bankcroft said. "We allow our licensees to differentiate from each other."

This means a bit of extra work for developers who want to design applications for the various user interfaces on Symbian, but it is less work than if the devices were not based on a common OS. Besides that, most user interface developers are making sure their platforms support Java, Bankcroft said.

Currently the majority of Symbian licensees are also part owners of the company.

Symbian, established as a private independent company in June 1998, is owned by Ericsson AB, Nokia Corp., Matsushita Co.(Panasonic), Motorola Inc., Psion plc., Siemens Enterprise Networks LLC and Sony Ericsson.

Related Stories:

  • Balsillie: Demand for Wireless Rising
  • Wireless Office Momentum Builds