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Smart-phone vision slowly taking shape

Posted: 16 Oct 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:nokia series 60? smart phone? symbian os? microsoft smartphone 2002? samsung?

With Samsung licensing Nokia's Series 60 software, the Finnish company's software might just end up to be the de facto standard for next-gen handsets, observes Electronic Engineering Times - Asia's Majeed Ahmad.

Majeed Ahmad is senior technology editor of Electronic Engineering Times - Asia.
With Korean cellphone stalwart Samsung joining Nokia's smart phone bandwagon, the Finnish company moves a step closer to making its Series 60 software the de facto standard for the next-generation data-centric handsets.

Along with Siemens, Matsushita and Nokia - other phone makers with Series 60 licenses - the four companies now share 60 percent of the worldwide cellphone market.

And Samsung is not just another licensee. The Korean electronics manufacturer has been a market leader in CDMA handsets since the inception of the technology a decade ago. In August this year, Samsung shot up to No. 3 position in global market share for cellphones, though it didn't come as much of a surprise to industry observers.

Nokia's Nordic cousin, Ericsson, being pushed to number five slot, is already starting to show signs of desperation. Not only because Nokia is stealing the show; but its joint venture (JV) with Sony isn't going very well, too. Ericsson's chief executive Kurt Hellstroem was quoted saying his company won't put any more money into its mobile phone JV if it doesn't show results in the coming quarters.

But it it's not Ericsson who matters the most in the present scheme of things. Nokia is quietly working out a strategy to confront Microsoft by turning its Series 60 software into an industry standard. To get developer community on its side, the Finnish wireless titan is encouraging licensees to develop their own value-added features using its user interface software.

There is another way to see the Samsung deal in the backdrop of the Nokia's foray into source-code business. About a year ago, Samsung became one of the first companies to collaborate with Microsoft when it announced a version of Windows CE operating system for cellphones. Microsoft's development project with Samsung eventually slipped far behind schedule as the Korean maker struggled to make the complex software work in conventional cellphones. Dubbed as Stinger, Microsoft later renamed the OS as Smartphone 2002.

Using Nokia's expertise in GSM and GPRS, Samsung can maintain its momentum in handset business to expand into new markets. Likewise, Samsung's entry to the Nokia camp will boost the prospects of Symbian OS, which had been struggling so far.

In case of a Nokia triumph, is wireless industry going to have a Microsoft of its own? Probably not! Nokia has been at pains to assure the mobile phone makers that it's not aiming to make money by licensing Series 60. Moreover, presence of Symbian as a multiple-vendor platform will ensure that Nokia won't be calling the shots alone. Series 60 application software sits on top of [Symbian] OS to enable functions such as Web browsing, picture messaging and e-mail.

The vision of smart phone will slowly take shape as more and more phone-PDA combos hit the market. On the hardware front, for instance, smart phone components are gradually becoming merchant items.

The dynamics of smart-phone technology may remain subtle until the widescale rollout of 2.5G and 3G services, but one thing seems to be clear: Microsoft, despite its unbound optimism for wireless, may not be able to replicate the legendary success it achieved in the PC arena a decade ago.

- Majeed Ahmad

EE Times Asia

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