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Motorola pledges allegiance to Symbian

Epoc-maker acts quickly to prevent stock turmoil

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Symbian yesterday called on alliance member Motorola to reaffirm its support for the smartphone platform after the mobile phone giant announced its decision to work with Symbian rival Palm on a pair of smartphones.

The PalmOS-based phones were announced yesterday, but an apparently chastened Motorola quickly re-stated its support for Symbian's Epoc 32 operating system and its plan to develop Epoc-based smartphones with Psion for shipment sometime next year - well ahead of the PalmOS-based handsets.

"Motorola remains committed as a shareholder, active participant and licensee of Symbian,'' Motorola said in a statement issued by Symbian. "Motorola also confirms its commitment to the joint development program with Psion scheduled to deliver phone-pad products in 2001.''

As will other cellphone developers. Nokia reaffirmed its own support for Symbian yesterday, noting its plan to ship and Epoc-based smartphone next year. And Symbian head Colly Myers pointed out that Ericsson has already begun shipping its Epoc-based R380 organiser-cum-phone.

Having seen the R380, we can say it's not a bad product, but its interface is poor, and we can see why Nokia is interested in getting the Palm UI on top of Epoc and why Motorola might well want to ship Palm-based phones once it has got people used to the idea of using a phone as an organiser by chucking basis PIM features on top of Epoc in next year's handsets.

Again, we're forced to wonder whether all this points to some conjunction of Palm and Symbian technology in the not-too-distant future, even though the two companies appear to be direct competitors.

That, of course, is Symbian's main concern. Psion's share price was rocked earlier this year when Symbian alliance member Ericsson said it was working with Microsoft, whose Windows CE also competes with Epoc and PalmOS. This time round, Psion offshoot Symbian clearly wants to avoid similar turmoil.

Ericsson's deal with Microsoft, like Motorola's with Palm, suggests Symbian alliance members aren't beyond playing the field and allying themselves with rival platforms in case the market shifts in their direction. Indeed, Motorola's work with Palm could easily be a matter of 'playing it safe' rather than the precursor of a Palm-Symbian technology pact.

We shall see... ®

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