In a landmark announcement yesterday, Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and NTT DoCoMo expressed their intent to unite Symbian OS, S60, UIQ and MOAP(S) to create one open mobile software platform. Together with AT&T, LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments and Vodafone they plan to establish the Symbian Foundation to extend the appeal of this unified software platform. Membership of this non-profit Foundation will be open to all organizations. This initiative is supported by current shareholders and management of Symbian Limited, who have been actively involved in its development.
Nokia announced plans to acquire the remaining shares of Symbian Limited that Nokia does not already own and then contribute the Symbian and S60 software to the Foundation. Sony Ericsson and Motorola today announced their intention to contribute technology from UIQ and DOCOMO has also indicated its willingness to contribute its MOAP(S) assets. From these contributions, the Foundation will provide a unified platform with common UI framework. A full platform will be available for all Foundation members under a royalty-free license, from the Foundation’s first day of operations.
Michael Mace from Mobile Opportunity has a great op-ed on this development Here:
You can’t say that Nokia lacks guts. The foundation members said at the announcement that it is one of the largest open source announcements ever, and I think that’s true. It’s a very interesting, aggressive move for Nokia, and I respect that. There are precedents for a big company acting as a sugar daddy for an open source software project, but I don’t think it’s ever been done with a project that is as central to the parent company’s operations as Symbian is to Nokia. It will be fascinating to see if Nokia can really work effectively through the foundation model. I presume they have thought about this a lot and feel the risks are well controlled.
I’m having trouble seeing the big picture of how this changes the world, though. I suspect the announcement is actually half cleanup and half power move. The power move is that it challenges Android, and could help harness the energy of the open source community to support Symbian. The cleanup is that the ownership situation of Symbian was unstable and had to be changed eventually, and SonyEricsson clearly wanted to get out of the UIQ business. The creation of the foundation solves all of those problems at once. My guess is that since Nokia is paying most of the bills, the other foundation partners were willing to go along with it. The Symbian investors get some money from Nokia, and can sit back and wait to see what the foundation delivers.
As always.. interesting times ahead!