Nokia to take control of Symbian platform development

The Symbian Foundation said starting next spring it will no longer focus on platform development and will instead license software and other intellectual property, a decision that clears up confusion that had been swirling about the non-profit group's strategic direction.

The decision, which was made by the foundation's board of directors, puts Symbian platform development back in the hands of Nokia (NYSE:NOK), which has remained one of the operating system's most ardent supports. Nokia bought Symbian in 2008 and set up the Symbian Foundation to develop the platform and freely share Symbian's source code with other handset vendors. Recently though, both Samsung and Sony Ericsson said they will not support future Symbian product development.

"The founding board members took a bold strategic step in setting up the foundation, which was absolutely the right decision at the time," Tim Holbrow, executive director of the Symbian Foundation, said in a statement. "There has since been a seismic change in the mobile market but also more generally in the economy, which has led to a change in focus for some of our funding board members. The result of this is that the current governance structure for the Symbian platform-- the foundation--is no longer appropriate.

Holbrow took over management of the foundation in October following the sudden resignation of longtime head Lee Williams. The announcement also comes just ahead of the start of the annual Symbian Exchange and Exposition event, which is being held in Amsterdam.

The Symbian Foundation said that it will reduce staff and operations, and that by next April the foundation will be governed by a group of non-executive directors that will oversee the group's licensing functions.

Nokia, meanwhile, reaffirmed its commitment to the platform, and in a company blog post, Jo Harlow, Nokia's senior vice president of smartphones, said the company's plans for the platform have not changed. "Do not confuse the end of the Foundation with the end of the Symbian platform," she wrote. "The Foundation has been very important in steering the platform through increasingly challenging waters, but the Foundation and the platform are not the same."

Nokia also said it is committed to making future development of the Symbian platform available to the ecosystem via an "alternative direct and open model."

Nokia last month decided to embrace the Qt cross-platform development environment as its sole application creation framework for both Symbian and MeeGo. The move allowed Nokia to consolidate its Symbian^3 and Symbian^4 platform development efforts into one. Nokia recently started shipping devices running Symbian^3, the latest version of the platform.

For more:
- see this Symbian Foundation release
- see this Nokia release
- see this Forbes article
- see this Reuters article
- see this Nokia blog post

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