Jack Gold, president and principal analyst at J. Gold Associates, recently predicted that Nokia and Google would unite the open-source mobile operating systems of Symbian and Android within a year or so.
Here is some context from which his theory springs: Nokia in June said it was acquiring the remaining 52 million shares it does not already own of Symbian for $410 million. Many of Nokia’s popular smart phones run Symbian.
Nokia, AT&T, LG Electronics, Motorola, NTT Docomo, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments and Vodafone created the Symbian Foundation, which aims to provide a unified platform with a common user interface for all Foundation members under a royalty-free license.
I like Gold’s thinking, which exemplifies the prevailing argument for platform unification in the mobile operating system space, littered with diverging platforms.
He argues that Nokia and other Symbian supporters, including Motorola, Docomo and Sony Ericsson, don’t want to compete in the mobile operating system market. Indeed, that is a big reason why the LiMo Foundation and LiPS Forum joined forces.
Google is so far behind the mobile OS game — Android won’t appear in a single phone until at least December 2008, if that — that it would make sense to join Symbian’s foundation and work together on some joint offering.
It may nullify the work Google has done in crafting Android, but it also may strengthen it. After all, Symbian is to smart-phone operating system software what Google is to Internet search: the leader.
Nokia and the other backers want to maintain and extend that lead but face increasing threats from RIM smart phones, Microsoft Windows Mobile devices and Apple’s incredibly popular iPhone, the 3G version of which is proving popular even as MobileMe struggles.
In working with Google, Nokia will get the premier Internet search and applications maker on board with the leading smart-phone OS.
“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 working with Nokia, et al, Google will shave years and dollars off of its time in bringing a new mobile OS to market. Particularly with all of the current perception problems swirling around Google’s Android developer advocates, Google should consider uniting with Symbian.
I asked Google for its take. The company spit back the mantra that it does not comment on rumors and speculation. Fair enough, but you can bet the Android team is thinking about it now if it hasn’t already.
Working together will give Google, Nokia and the others with stakes in Symbian the best chance of not only cementing the platform’s place in the market, but extending it as the mobile Internet proliferates under the aegis of new Web services.