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Symbian chief withdraws from iPhone and Android fight

'Personal reasons' cited

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The leader of the consortium fighting off Android and the iPhone has stepped down after just two years.

Symbian executive director Lee Williams has left, effective immediately, the Foundation said Tuesday, and been replaced by the group's chief financial officer Tim Holbrow.

In a statement, Symbian cited "personal reasons" for Williams' exit, and said it wished him all the best in his future ventures.

Symbian did not respond to our question of whether Holbrow is a permanent replacement for Williams.

Williams, a former Nokia man, was named Symbian executive director in October 2008 by the Foundation's board. He'd worked on the S60 at Nokia.

The former leader had said it was his strategy to try and siphon off iPhone and Android developers. In July, Symbian announced a deal to integrate Nitobi's PhoneGap for building HTML, CSS, and JavaScript applications with the Symbian^3 platform web-extensions package to make it easier to deploy apps on a range of handsets.

The change of leadership comes at a time of great uncertainty and pessimism for Nokia and the smartphone operating system it has championed, but that it has also kept at arm's length.

Chief patron Nokia has dumped its chief executive Olli-Pekka Kallasvuoand and brought in new leader, former Microsoft president of business applications Stephen Elop.

Such is the measure of desperation at Nokia: the company has broken its track record of only appointing Finns. It was a move as symbolic as it was an acceptance of a need for change.

Under Olli-Pekka, Symbian had languished as an underfunded adjunct to the main Nokia operation, something Nokia and Symbian seemed to think could attract developers simply by virtue of the fact that its code was available under open source.

Unsurprisingly, Symbian has continued to lose market share and supporters.

Symbian was the number-one smartphone operating system with 50 per cent market share around the time of Williams' appointment. Symbian's now at 34 per cent, and while its still number-one, überanalyst Gartner reckons that Symbian will lose the top slot to Android by 2014.

Gartner's projection came in September, before Samsung said this month that it's pulling its support from Symbian, meaning it will no longer provide developers or applications for the platform. Samsung is the world's second-largest mobile phone maker, and has been happy to partner with most providers — until now, it seems. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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