October 15, 2010 6:04 pm

Sony Ericsson to stop using Symbian system

Sony Ericsson is to stop making smartphones featuring Nokia’s Symbian operating system.

The move means that the troubled Finnish mobile maker is likely to be the only significant user of Symbian.

Analysts said Sony Ericsson’s decision confirmed the “failure” of Symbian as an open source platform, given that it was supposed to be used by several large mobile makers.

However, they added that Symbian could remain a popular smartphone operating system if Nokia can push through improvements to the platform.

Sony Ericsson said on Friday that it wanted to focus on using Google’s Android operating system for its smartphones, together with another platform by Microsoft. Apart from Nokia, Sony Ericsson has been the biggest supporter of Symbian over the past decade.

Symbian remains the most popular smartphone operating system in the world, but it has been losing market share to rival platforms led by Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS, used in its iPhone. It mainly reflects how Nokia has been struggling to produce smartphones that match the iPhone and sophisticated handsets featuring Android.

Ben Wood, analyst at CCS Insight, said: “Sony Ericsson’s move is final confirmation that Symbian is de facto a Nokia platform, irrespective of whether it is open source or not.”

He added that one of the biggest questions confronting Stephen Elop, Nokia’s new chief executive, would be how to secure full control of Symbian’s software development, which could enable the mobile maker to speed up improvements to its smartphones. Nokia declined to comment.

Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, Mr Elop’s predecessor who was removed in September, announced in 2008 that Nokia was taking exclusive ownership of Symbian, the UK technology company responsible for the Symbian operating system.

Nokia paid €264m ($371m) to buy the 52 per cent of Symbian that it did not own, from shareholders that included Samsung and Sony Ericsson.

In a move that some analysts saw as an attempt to ensure regulators did not block the transaction, Nokia said that it would contribute the computer code behind Symbian to a new non-profit organisation called the Symbian Foundation.

The Symbian Foundation has made Symbian available on an open source basis, which means mobile makers including Motorola, Samsung and Sony Ericsson no longer have to pay royalties for using the operating system in their smartphones.

However, Symbian’s success as an open source platform has been stymied by Android, which is also available for free to mobile makers.

Samsung is focusing on Android, together with Bada, the mobile maker’s own operating system for mid-priced smartphones.

Motorola and Sony Ericsson are both basing their turnrounds on using Android.

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