Nokia announced today that it is offering to buy the 52% of Symbian that it doesn’t already own for around $410 million. Software developed by Symbian is the most widely used on high-end mobile phones and Nokia plans to make the code available free to other manufactures. Nokia hopes to make Symbian software the industry standard worldwide.
If the purchase is successful, Nokia will form a foundation with handset makers Sony Ericsson, Motorola and Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo to make the software available royalty-free. Nokia currently pays Symbian over $250 million a year in licensing fees. The foundation will combine their three different version of the Symbian software for advanced, data-enabled phones into one open platform.
AT&T Inc., LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics Co., STMicroelectronics N.V., Texas Instruments Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC will also join the foundation, Nokia said.
It is easier to develop new software for PCs because over 90% run Windows. The mobile phone industry is more fragmented, with many competing platforms. This causes software developers to spend much more time writing applications for the various platforms and raises costs for handset manufactures and carriers that have to deal with the different systems.
If Nokia is successful in its takeover of Symbian, it will enter the race for an industry standard. The LiMo Foundation and Google’s Android are two other major competitors that will give away its handset software.
Symbian already has over 60% of the world’s smart-phone market. This gives it a large start in the race towards standardization if the sale goes through. Nokia said it expects the sale to be completed in the fourth quarter of this year, subject to regulatory approval.