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Symbian slashes smart-phone OS fees

Software could cost vendors just $2.50 a unit

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Symbian is to halve the cost of its mobile phone operating system in a bid to boost the take-up of its software and spread the OS' reach out of the high-end smart phone sector. The new model could see vendors pay as little as $2.50 a unit, the company said.

Symbian currently charges handset manufacturers $7.25 for each of the first 2m phones it ships of a given Symbian OS-based model. Beyond that, it charges $5 a unit. From July, however, it will offer vendors the chance either to pay a percentage of the trade price of the devices they're offering, or adopt "scaleable pricing that reduces as the licensee's total volume of shipments increase within a one-year period".

Vendors commit to either scheme for a year, after which they can continue with their current programme or switch to the other. The two alternatives are open to all Symbian licensees equally, the company said, keen to indicate this hasn't been done to benefit its largest shareholder, Nokia, which owns 47.9 per cent of the company.

During Q3 2005, some 8.54m mobile phones shipped with the Symbian OS, up 131 per cent on the 3.7m that shipped in Q3 2004 and 9.5 per cent up on Q2 2005's 7.8m total. In each period, the vast majority of the devices shipped came from Nokia, which has been more willing than other vendors to use the Symbian OS in mainstream handsets as well as high-end ones.

Other vendors have preferred to restrict the operating system to their smart phones, and that's as much because of its high hardware requirements as the cost of the software. The new pricing model may well encourage them to follow Nokia and expand the number of handsets they offer, with Symbian on board. It may also help to attract other phone makers who might otherwise look to Microsoft's Windows Mobile. ®

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