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Nokia grabs control of Symbian, downsizes Foundation

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Nokia is taking over the governance of Symbian, leaving the non-profit Foundation as a vestigial organisation in name only.

Around 75 of 100 jobs will be lost, we understand, as the Foundation becomes an entity devoted to licensing IP.

In a press release the Foundation's CEO Tim Holbrow, brought in after the sudden departure of Lee Williams last month, acknowledged a "seismic change in the mobile market but also more generally in the economy, which has led to a change in focus for some of our funding board members.

"The result of this is that the current governance structure for the Symbian platform – the foundation - is no longer appropriate."

Nokia talked about a new "open model" for the source code today - but it remains to be seen exactly what this will mean. The decision was blessed at a board meeting in Amsterdam today, where the 11th annual Symbian developer event is taking place, albeit in much more modest circumstances.

The Register understands the Foundation, even in its diminished form, may not live on much past April 2011.

Nokia acquired Symbian, then employing around 1,200 staff, in 2008 and devotes 4,000 people to the system. But in the hope of attracting more licensees, Nokia devolved licensing and governance issues to a jointly-owned nonprofit organisation, the Symbian Foundation. With key supporters such as Samsung and Sony Ericsson declining to use the OS or back the Foundation financially this year, it had little else to do.

Symbian developers will revert to consulting Forum Nokia for technical information - just as they did two years ago before the ill-fated Foundation was set up. Nokia's handling of Symbian has been one of its most catastrophic errors - open sourcing the code wasted two years as lawyers picked through the code, just as the smartphone market became mainstream. By the time the code was ready, it was no longer competitive.

Symbian likes to use the treehuggy phrase "ecosystem" instead of "economy" to describe the activity around the OS. It's evidently not an economy. But even "ecosystem" implies it has some sort of life. ®

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