Sharp, Fujitsu breath life into Symbian, release 11 phones

Sharp and Fujitsu announced 11 new smartphones running Symbian, a move that adds support to the operating system, which counts Nokia (NYSE:NOK) as its strongest supporter. However, the new devices from the Japanese handset makers run Symbian^2, an older version of the platform. The two companies unveiled the phones at the Symbian Exchange and Exposition event, which is being held in Amsterdam.

The new phones come a day after the Symbian Foundation said that starting next spring it will no longer focus on platform development and will instead license software and other intellectual property. The decision puts Symbian platform development back in the hands of Nokia. 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 won't build new Symbian gadgets.

Nokia though remains committed to Symbian, and recently decided to combine its Symbian^3 and Symbian^4 development efforts and use the Qt development environment for both Symbian and MeeGo. Jo Harlow, Nokia's senior vice president of smartphones, told ZDNet that the company plans to roll out numerous software updates and modifications early next year to the platform, including split-screen text entry, a portrait-mode Qwerty keyboard and support for Swype. The platform also is expected to get an updated browsing experience and, interestingly, Harlow also told Bloomberg that "some existing devices" will receive support for Near-Field Communications early next year.

"In the past if you bought a device, you got one or two software updates," Harlow told Bloomberg. "We will now begin to deliver software updates more frequently and more of them. Visually, you'll see some significant upgrades coming, to keep the experience of the device fresh and new for the consumer."

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this ZDNet article
- see this Bloomberg article 

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