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Android, Symbian Expected To Become One OS

Analyst J. Gold Associates said the merger of the two mobile operating systems will begin within three to six months.

Nokia-owned Symbian and Google-created Android are destined to be combined to provide a single open source operating system for smartphones, an analyst firm said Thursday.

The merger of the two operating systems will begin within three to six months, driven mostly by the fact that Nokia and Google are pursuing similar open source strategies with their respective technology, J. Gold Associates said in a research note.

Nokia and other users of Symbian, which has the largest share of smartphones in the market, do not want to compete in the OS market, the firm said. With Google, the search engine entered the OS market to push the industry toward openness and a level playing field in offering applications and services on the devices.

"We expect that within the next three-six months, Symbian and Android will combine to provide a single open source OS," J. Gold said. "Many of the same sponsors are involved in both initiatives."

Nokia recently acquired 100% ownership of Symbian and announced plans to turn it over to a new Symbian Foundation to create an open source OS, which would be offered to foundation members sometime in the first half of 2009.

In pursuing the same open source strategy, Google and supporters have formed the Open Handset Alliance for Android. Members include Motorola and Japan-based DoCoMo, which are also participants in the Symbian Foundation.

J. Gold said both sides have good reasons for joining. Google's investment in Android is "diluting the potential for it [Google] to build compelling cross-device applications where it can generate substantial revenues," the firm said. Symbian, on the other hand, could cement its position with the open source community by not appearing as just a Nokia public relations stunt.

For the market as a whole, the consolidation would reduce the number of major platforms, making it easier for developers to write applications, which means more software would hit the market, J. Gold said. In addition, consolidation means lower support costs.

Finally, it may help discourage carriers from creating their own unique user experiences on specifically altered and customized devices "in order to maintain customer control, but which is also suppressing the growth of apps," the firm said.

"A combination of the Android and Symbian efforts would be good for the industry, good for Google and good for Symbian," J. Gold said. "It would also help spur a growth in the availability of applications and services. The downside is minimal. Everyone wins."

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