Here’s one for the books: Symbian OS proponent Fujitsu and Mitsubishi (which makes decent handsets for the domestic market but is unknown outside of Japan) have announced that they are getting together to develop new FOMA handsets. The press release today appears to be dressed up in terms of Fujitsu offering its expertise to Mitsubishi with Symbian, but it also hints that the two will combine on hardware development too. Given the fact that Fujitsu is a leading proponent of Symbian, and that DoCoMo president Keiji Tachikawa hinted that Symbian will be the OS of choice, the announcement looks as if Mitsubishi has figured the lay of the land and jumped on the bandwagon.
The news also looks as if things have decisively moved in Symbian’s favor. Last December, Tachikawa finally smashed Microsoft’s Windows operating system as a candidate for future FOMA 3G phones because, frankly, he didn’t want DoCoMo to be locked into what appears to be the world’s second-choice smart-phone OS. He did us all a favor by also preventing the hegemonic Microsoft empire from gaining significant traction in the Japanese mobile market.
Meanwhile, according to the press announcement released today, manufacturers that are licensees of the Symbian OS (as well as other OSs) account for 85% of total worldwide mobile handset sales. This leaves the question of what is going to happen to Linux on DoCoMo phones? Again, Tachikawa last December told us that Symbian was very much preferred, with Linux as a backup, intimating that almost any OS except Windows would be looked at.
WWJ regulars will probably have seen our little Jan. 29 ditty on Tachikawa trashing the then-39-month-old Mobimagic cooperation deal with Gates & Empire which had aimed at adapting small-device operating system Windows CE for intranet and business applications.
Meanwhile, that Symbian truck keeps a-rolling.
On January 12, we published an article quoting ABI research clocking Symbian as the OS for the projected 150 million smartphones to be sold in 2008. We reserve judgement on such long range predictions, and Mitsubishi isn’t exactly a Nokia (or evena Panasonic) in terms of numbers shifted even in Japan, but today’s announcement adds another shoulder to the push to make Symbian the de facto standard for more-intelligent-than-yer-average phones.
We already know that DoCoMo has also given out some fairly heavy-handed subsidies to Symbian developers. Back last December 19, the company said it was giving about $350 million to Fujitsu, Mitsubishi Electric, Motorola Japan, NEC, Panasonic Mobile Communications, and Sharp to develop HSDPA, a high-speed upgrade technology for the current third-gen W-CDMA network, which, of course, is when DoCoMo will fully enter the smartphone arena.
Fujitsu, for its part—and despite the recent recall of its latest 900i series phones for a software bug—has also joined NEC and Panasonic to attack the international market. We’ve heard nothing from Mitsubishi about that. It’s well known in Japan that Mitsubishi Electric’s R&D resources are scant, but there’s nothing at all wrong with their products, which lack some glamor but are well put together. So teaming up with Fujitsu might be more of a defensive measure to get a handle on Symbian OS with an experienced partner, rather than preparation for assaulting various Asian markets.