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Nokia plotting Symbian laptops

MC400* route to keeping up with the Androids

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Nokia has plans to put Symbian onto laptop computers, with the vendor predicting converged devices were likely to appear in as little as five years from now.

CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo confirmed the mobile vendor's plans in an interview with the Finnish National Broadcaster last night.

"We don't have to look even for five years from now to see that what we know as a mobile phone and what we know as a PC are in many ways converging," Kallasvuo told broadcaster YLE when questioned about Nokia's aspirations towards the lap. "We are looking very actively also at this opportunity."

Getting Symbian to run on a laptop shouldn't be particularly challenging, especially if you happen to have €500m to throw at the problem, but why one would want to do such a thing is a more difficult question.

Symbian is hugely optimised for lower power consumption, from the ground up, so that should be reflected in a significantly better battery life. It's also now a genuinely real-time OS, so the main CPU could also run a GSM stack - though it's hard to see how that would be an advantage on the lap where space and price are less of an issue.

Symbian already has a couple of decent, Microsoft-compatible, Office packages - one of which even underlines spelling mistakes in blue (which is what computers are actually for) - but it lacks a GUI suitable for the desktop, as well as drivers for the myriad of hardware users expect to be able to drop into their laptops these days.

A comparable experience can be had using the Redfly, or Palm's ill-fated Folio: connecting a decent screen, keyboard, and mouse to a mobile phone is a strange experience. But the maintenance of state between desktop and mobility is compelling - when the website you were halfway through reading on the tube transfers to your desktop screen, there is a pleasing continuity to the experience.

Nokia certainly has a massive manufacturing capability that would give it economies of scale, and the brand is well known enough to make shoppers look twice. Also, having a Symbian laptop might attract developers who would otherwise take their skills elsewhere.

Which brings us to the real reason Nokia is talking about Symbian on laptops - because Google is, and if Android is going to scale up to the desktop world, then Nokia is damned if it's going to see Symbian left in punters' pockets. ®

*Psion's EPOC-based laptop, whose 75-hour battery life remains unbeaten, though to be fair it couldn't underline spelling mistakes.

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