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Nokia ponders Psion purchase – report

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Nokia wants to buy Psion in a bid to take de facto control of smartphone operating system company Symbian.

At any rate, that's what a story in yesterday's Business claims, citing an anonymous source familiar with Nokia's plans.

Nokia is a Symbian shareholder, as is Psion, the company from which Symbian was originally spun off. Nokia's share in Symbian is now up to 32.2 per cent after buying a portion of Motorola's shareholding in August. Psion also took some of the Motorola stake, taking its own share of Symbian to 31.1 per cent.

Symbian's remaining major shareholders are Ericsson (19 per cent), Matsushita (7.9 per cent), Samsung (five per cent) and Siemens (4.8 per cent). Nokia is unlikely to do a deal with Ericsson, thanks to the latter's partnership with Sony. Joining forces with Siemens wouldn't give it enough clout to face down all the other partners. A deal with Psion, on the other hand, would give it a clear majority stake in Symbian.

The question is, why would it want control over Symbian? True, it sees the Symbian OS as a key foundation for its more advanced phone products going forward, but as the biggest maker of Symbian-based products, it's unlikely to have its requests ignored by the OS developer.

Heck, version 7.0S of the operating system was effectively developed specifically for Nokia.

And don't forget that Symbian only provides the core OS. The user interface, which defines not only how users interact with the system, but the crucial visually branding the differentiates one smartphone from another, is open to individual licensees to produce. By developing the Series 60 UI, Nokia already has control of this key part of the platform.

In dominating Symbian, via Psion, Nokia runs the risk of alienating fellow company stakeholders and potentially spoiling the OS' unique selling point: that - unlike Microsoft - it isn't dominated by a single company.

But Nokia's interest in Psion may not extend to Symbian. Its goal in acquiring the company - if indeed this is what it's thinking - may be to own Psion Software. This Psion subsidiary has developed Transcend Mail, enabling enterprises to push corporate email to Symbian-based phones. Putting the product out under the Nokia brand would be a powerful teaser for enterprise customers and carriers both. ®

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