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Nokia grabs control of Symbian - then gives it away

OS makeover starts with foundation

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Nokia has bought up the bits of Symbian it didn't already own and is chucking the OS into an open-source foundation along with the S60 UI layer, accompanied by Sony Ericsson and DoCoMo, who are throwing in UIQ and MOAP(S) respectively.

Symbian has always been the underlying OS allowing companies to develop different graphical layers on top in much the same way that Windows (<95) used to sit on top of MS-DOS. Nokia had S60, originally intended for button interfaces, Sony Ericsson had UIQ, meant for pen control, and DoCoMo had MOAP(S), intended for Japan.

The differences between the UIs were becoming increasingly blurred, with developments such as S60 adding touch-control and UIQ 3 offering penless interaction, and now all three of them are to be combined into a single UI layer and given away royalty-free to Symbian Foundation members.

Those members will have to cough up at least $1,500 a year, but that's chicken feed to companies such as AT&T and Vodafone, which have come on board to endorse the more open Symbian platform.

This does remove the principle advantage of Google's Android: the code being free. But it also removes a significant source of revenue for Nokia, which is paying €264m for the privilege of being able to give away its software.

The formal announcement from Symbian is due in an hour or so, and more details should emerge then. We'll certainly be taking a more comprehensive look at what Nokia has in mind later today, and how the company intends to make any money in the coming decade or two. ®

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