Symbian, S60, and UIQ Undergoing Massive Changes

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The Symbian operating system and the two most popular user interfaces for it, S60 and UIQ, have always been owned and developed by separate companies. Not any more.

Nokia announced today that it intends to pay €264 million the remaining 52% of Symbian Limited that it doesn’t already own. This company was founded in the late 1990s by a group of mobile phone makers to develop and license the Symbian OS.

Nokia will then turn around and donate the Symbian operating system to the newly created Symbian Foundation. 

In addition, Nokia will also donate its S60 user interface to the new foundation, and Sony Ericsson and Motorola will donate their UIQ user interface to to it, too. These UIs run on top of the Symbian OS, which only provides the back-end functionality for smartphones.

This non-profit group will make the Symbian OS and the associated user interfaces available to smartphone makers free of charge.

"This is a significant milestone in our software strategy" said Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, CEO of Nokia. "Symbian is already the leading open platform for mobile devices. Through this acquisition and the establishment of the Symbian Foundation, it will undisputedly be the most attractive platform for mobile innovation. This will drive the development of new and compelling, web-enabled applications to delight a new generation of consumers."

More about the Symbian Foundation

The new Symbian Foundation has the backing of smartphone makers LG Electronics, Motorola,  Samsung, Sony Ericsson,  and, of course, Nokia. It is also backed by three wireless carriers — AT&T, NTT DOCOMO, and Vodafone — and chipmakers STMicroelectronics and Texas Instruments.

These companies will work together to merge Symbian, S60, and UIQ into a single open-source mobile platform.

The Foundation will make selected components available as open source at launch, and will continue to release components of the operating system as open source. These will be made available over the next two years and are intended to be released under Eclipse Public License (EPL) 1.0.

"Ten years ago, Symbian was established by far sighted players to offer an advanced open operating system and software skills to the whole mobile industry", said Nigel Clifford, CEO of Symbian. "Our vision is to become the most widely used software platform on the planet and indeed today Symbian OS leads its market by any measure. Today’s announcement is a bold new step to achieve that vision by embracing a complete and proven platform, offered in an open way, designed to stimulate innovation, which is at the heart of everything we do."

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