Symbian Gets $630 Million Boost

The European Investment Bank will provide Nokia with a loan to help make the Symbian-based smartphones more competitive.
As the mobile space becomes increasingly crowded, the European Investment Bank will give Nokia a $630 million loan to help make Symbian more competitive.

Nokia and Symbian are still world leaders in their respective categories, but they're facing increased competition from established players like Microsoft and Research In Motion, as well as from relative newcomers like Apple and Google. To combat this, Nokia purchased the remaining stock in Symbian with the goal of spinning it into a royalty-free operating system under the Eclipse Public License.

The cell phone manufacturer established the Symbian Foundation to steward the transition toward an open source operating system, and industry heavyweights like AT&T, Texas Instruments, Samsung, and Vodafone are also on board. The open source Symbian is expected to combine the S60, DoCoMo MOAP, and UIQ platforms, and it will be on handsets in 2010.

"Nokia envisages that the R&D activities supported by this loan will also benefit the work of the Symbian Foundation and its development of open source software for mobile devices," the cell phone manufacturer wrote.

While the overall cell phone market is expected to decline in 2009 because of the staggering global economy, smartphones are still expected to achieve double-digit growth. This loan could help boost Symbian's chances of maintaining its lead in the field, as the competition is only going to get more heated.

RIM has a strong grip on the enterprise market, and it's gaining traction in the prosumer market with consumer-friendly devices like the BlackBerry Flip and Storm. Microsoft has also just revamped its Windows Mobile platform to be more pleasing to a mass market.

Apple has been in the smartphone game for less than two years, but it has had a big impact with its iPhone line. While it holds a miniscule percentage of the overall market, the iPhone 3G has seen great commercial and critical success. The App Store model has seen more than half a billion downloads in about six months, and every major player is bringing out a similar model for distributing mobile applications.

Google's Android OS is also open source, but it's currently only available on the T-Mobile G1. But there should be a slate of handsets with Google's OS released this year from the likes of Garmin, HTC, Motorola, and Sony Ericsson.

Nokia's decision to create the Symbian Foundation and to open up the OS should have major ramifications throughout the smartphone market. InformationWeek evaluated the impact of this move, and the report can be downloaded here (registration required).