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Nokia cash for Symbian

As Android openness spat continues

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Nokia has borrowed €500 million from the European Investment Bank to fund development of Symbian handsets and technology, as the competition heats up to see whom is most open.

The money is a five-year loan, and intended to fund research and development at Nokia. The company reckons that's going to trickle down to the Symbian Foundation, while pointing out that the Foundation is inherently superior to Android's (Open Handset) Alliance 'cos Symbian is a community effort rather than being pushed by one company.

Last week the Symbian Foundation boss Lee Williams told Silicon.com that Android was no more than a marketing label: "just another Linux effort with a popular consumer brand attached".

But Google insists that Symbian isn't open at all.

Rich Miner, Vice President of Mobile for Google told Mobile World Congress last week: "the source code isn't completely available for that platform ... it's misleading to call that platform open".

Without a trace of irony Miner also stated: "We think that when somebody controls an entire platform like that it's bad for the industry", which is pretty strong coming from a company that (we understand) forced the Agora to be pulled 10 days before launch on the grounds that the screen had a different resolution from the G1.

LiMo has also been attempting to join the anti-Android throng, pointing out that it probably has the only phone-OS that is genuinely a community effort, an argument that's hampered by so many LiMo members also being signed up to Android, and even LiMo supporters are talking it into the feature-phone market these days.

The Symbian Foundation can't open up quite yet: the OS still has huge chunks of licensed code in it, each chunk has to be identified and a license negotiated with the owner (or a replacement written) which is going to take a while, so when it comes to openness Android probably has the edge, for the moment at least.

Nokia's new money won't go to the Foundation, but it will be spent creating new technologies and handsets that will, inevitably, increase the breadth of hardware that Symbian supports.

That could be in the direction of set-top boxes and tablets, markets previously ignored by Symbian entirely - more importantly it might create some cool Symbian handsets.

For while the industry argues the benefits of different OSs punters don't give a toss - they are still buying phones on the basis of good-looking hardware, something Apple knows and Google needs to learn.

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