Nokia reconfirms long-term Symbian support; analysts see better year ahead

While media speculation continues over the future of Symbian, Nokia has stated that the OS will remain its business platform for the foreseeable future. To support this stance, the company's VP for business smartphones, Illari Numari, said that the past quarter was Nokia's "best ever in terms of smartphone sales", and that the vast majority of those sales were Symbian-based handsets.

In an effort to clarify the situation--not helped by the recent news that the Symbian Foundation was closing its web sites and winding down most of its operations--Numari said that Symbian would remain "the enterprise platform Nokia uses today and going forward," and that Meego was only for "niche products, such as converged devices that were high end and more like a computer."

The VP also argued that, by absorbing Symbian into Nokia, it would continue with R&D work, and expected to streamline platform development activity. Numari also confirmed that Nokia was aiming to make better use of its technology partnership with Microsoft to push its Symbian-based handsets as the most cost-effective solution for enterprise mobility. "We are a more cost-effective alternative to RIM, for which enterprises need extra licences and must deploy extra server products."

Adding to this, Numari said that Nokia had now made Symbian more developer-friendly by focusing on Qt as its official developer framework, and that progress with Nokia's Ovi application store has been "phenomenal" at three million downloads a day.

While this enthusiasm for Symbian might be predictable, especially given Nokia's lack of alternatives, financial analysts have turned from being gloom-mongers regarding the company's outlook to mildly positive.

Accepting that there is much to worry about--continuing loss of market share, problems with the N8 smartphones--analysts were jolted by Nokia's third quarter results exceeding their best estimates, and further enhanced by the appointment of new management.

In a recent poll of 28 financial watchers who have changed or reiterated their price targets since the last review, 16 now had a positive rating for Nokia, 4 were neutral and 8 were negative.

Stock market analysts from RBC Capital, JP Morgan, Barclays and Canaccord Genuity were among those that increased their ratings, while the Goldman Sachs researcher commented that he expected /strong smartphone demand, a healthy sell-in of Nokia's new Symbian 3 products and an improved basic portfolio that will boost the company's near-term earnings'.

Of note, Paras Anand, head of European equities at F&C, claimed that Nokia's perceived weakness--no single 'killer' product--could ultimately be an asset. "Being able to address a wider market, using its open-source software platforms [Symbian and Meego] could put Nokia in with a decent chance of staying the course."

For more:
- see this V3 article
- see this Seeking Alpha article
- see this Investment Week article

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