Nokia was the first to publicly congratulate Symbian, the leading smartphone operating system company, on its success in fending off the Finnish phone giant's bid to take control of the company.
"We encouraged other shareholders to use their rights, and we have fulfilled exactly what we wanted," said Matti Alahuhta, vice president and chief strategist at Nokia, at a press conference where Symbian announced a total of £187 million investment, including £50 million cash. The irony is that much of that investment, from Sony Ericsson, Siemens and Panasonic, was explicitly to prevent Nokia from siezing control of the smartphone leader.
When the dust settled, Nokia had a 47.9 percent share of the company instead of the 63 percent it looked like getting at one stage. To emphasise that Symbian investors are all friends now, Symbian CEO David Levin announced a new board, to be presided over by an as-yet-unconfirmed independent chairman. Nokia will have two board members while the other handset maker will have one. We analyse the future of Symbian in more detail here.
Nokia is likely to employ around 300 new staff, and focus on the mid-tier market where it is important to make phones cheaply for mass consumption, said Levin. It will also work on getting smartphones into the enterprise, and liaise more closely with the three main Symbian platforms: Symbian subsidiary UIQ, Nokia's Series 60, and the Fujitsu/DoCoMo platform, FOMA.
Sony Ericsson, Panasonic and Siemens all stood up in support of the new Symbian, making predictions of growth for the company's smartphones. Sony Ericsson's £57.3 million investment takes it to 13.1 percent ownership, Siemens' £20.1 million takes it to 8.4 percen, and Panasonic's £16.9 million takes it to a 10 percent share. Samsung has kept its 4.5 percent share, and Nokia's investment has grown to £93.4 million.
Although Nokia probably was serious in its initial efforts to take control, its support for an independent Symbian is genuine, now that it has more funding, believe analysts. The nine months delay from Nokia's bid to today's reconciliation does not represent indecision but bureaucracy, said Dean Bubley of Disruptive Analysis: "The delay has not been procrastination. The deal has had to get approval from the competition authorities in Germany, Austria and elsewhere. Since the green light, there has been a fairly rapid pre-emption process."
Nokia's original bid would have taken its share from 31.1 percent to that 63 percent, for a price of £136 million. Despite Nokia's arguments that Symbian was safe in its hands, the industry was sceptical, and Ericsson and Sony Ericsson announced plans to reduce Nokia's eventual holding.
Although the move makes Symbian a stronger player against Microsoft, that is not the main motive, said Bubley: "Microsoft is a chimera." Its mobile operating systems still have a small market share in the nascent smartphone market. Nomura predicts that Microsoft will sell 5 percent of the 22 million smartphones to be sold this year, compared with Symbian's 60 percent.
Instead the move is to do with handset manufacturers wanting to simplify product development on common platforms. It is a move which dovetails neatly with moves from the operators, led by NTT DoCoMo, to specify a standard platform for their applications, in the OMTP group.
"If they can get 80 percent in a common specification, and only need 20 percent customisation, that would make everyone happier," said Bubley.
Where next for the new-look Symbian? Read our analysis.
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