Symbian has named Nigel Clifford as its new chief executive officer (CEO). He'll begin in the job next month.

Clifford replaces David Levin, who left Symbian in March to become the CEO at United Business Media. The decision to tap Clifford for Symbian's top job was unanimously made by the board of directors, based on his track record in leading international technology organisations, the company said.

That background includes serving as CEO of Tertio Telecoms, a teleco software and services company; a two-year stint as senior VP at Cable and Wireless; five years as CEO of the Glasgow Royal Infirmary University National Health Service Trust; and 11 years with BT in a variety of posts including his last one as head of business strategy and market development for the company's mobile communications business unit.

Clifford is a graduate of Cambridge University and holds an MBA from Strathclyde University in Glasgow.

His most pressing challenge as head of Symbian will be to use the company's strength in the smart-phone software market to take a lead position in the mid-range market.

Earlier this year, Symbian said shipments of smart-phones based on its OS increased 115 percent to 14.4 million in 2004, compared to 6.8 million in 2003. In February, it announced its intention to get low-cost phones for the mass market loaded with Symbian OS version 9 and on shelves by during the second half of this year.

According to Tony Cripps, an analyst with Ovum, Clifford is joining a company that is doing well in terms of the usual metrics like financial performance, number of licensees, market share and growth, thanks in large part to Levin's tenure.

"I'd expect that Clifford's biggest problem will be managing Symbian's growth efficiently. The company has often stated over the last couple of years that mid-range, mass market handsets are key to its future growth potential but so far few Symbian smart phones could reasonably be said to qualify as mass market devices," Cripps said.

The problem for Symbian in the mass market is that it faces much greater competition, both from established rivals such as Microsoft and PalmSource, as well as Openwave Systems whose own handset platform, though not an operating system as such, offers many of the features of smart phones.

Symbian also needs to persuade business users that it has a viable platform for enterprise apps. "Getting that message out has not been Symbian's strong point," Cripps said. "Many enterprises see Windows Mobile as a natural path for mobile enterprise applications due to its closer integration with Microsoft server and desktop products and, more especially, with its development tools."