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November 8, 2010

Nokia grabs Symbian development control

'Seismic change in mobile market' blamed for shift in strategy

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Nokia will take over future development of the Symbian mobile operating system from the Symbian Foundation, which will transition to an organisation that will license software and IP, including the Symbian trademark, the two bodies have announced.

Nokia has reaffirmed its commitment to Symbian by confirming that it will make the future development of the Symbian platform available to the ecosystem via an alternative direct and open model, it said.

The company also pointed out the platform still "enjoys strong support" from plenty of phone manufacturers while 400 million phones have now been shipped with Symbian onboard, 100 million of which were shipped in the last 12 months.

"The founding board members took a bold strategic step in setting up the foundation, which was absolutely the right decision at the time. There has since been a seismic change in the mobile market but also more generally in the economy, which has led to a change in focus for some of our funding board members. The result of this is that the current governance structure for the Symbian platform – the foundation – is no longer appropriate," said Tim Holbrow, executive director, Symbian Foundation.

The Foundation confirmed that a reduction in operations and staff numbers will follow and by April 2011 the Symbian Foundation will be governed by a group of non-executive directors tasked with overseeing the organisation’s licensing function. Details of the exact number of staff reductions will be announced at a later date.

Nokia is currently undergoing a number of changes as new CEO Stephen Elop continues to stamp his authority on the Finnish mobile maker. The company recently announced that it will shed around 1,800 jobs globally.

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"This is a decision that we welcome and have been advocating Nokia should take such a step for quite some time," wrote Gartner’s Carolina Milanesi on the analyst house blog. "While Symbian as a platform has a role to play (albeit with a lot of work to be done on UI) Symbian Foundation failed to thrive as an open source entity driving innovation."

"This is Nokia following through on one of the comments made by Steven Elop during the earnings call about Nokia taking control of its own destiny and continuing to differentiate its offering. This should allow Nokia to move faster when it comes to innovation," Milanesi added.

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