The Symbian operating system grew 50 percent over 2007, and is well placed to grow in future, according to the Symbian chief executive Nigel Clifford - who shrugged off Google Android, Apple iPhone and Microsoft Windows phones at Mobile World Congress.

22.4 million Symbian phones shipped in the fourth quarter of 2007, making a total of 77 million in the year, and bringing in £179 million in royalties for the year - but Symbian is making its operating system cheaper, in order to reach beyond the smartphone sector to lower-cost phones, which are expected to grow much faster than any other kind of device in the next few years.

"We've established a base camp at the top of the pyramid," said Clifford, coining what is surely MWC's best mixed metaphor so far. "The mid-range is key to our growth - that's where we'll get our next 300 million subscribers." The operating system has kept its lead in the smartphone market, and now makes up a respectable seven percent of all phones, including low cost devices, said Clifford.

Clifford countered Sony Ericsson's announcement of a Windows Mobile phone with news of two new Sony Ericsson Symbian devices, and a promise to keep competing with all platforms, in all parts of the world - including the Far East where its competitors are Linux phones, and the US, where other handset makers are emerging.

"The entry of Apple is good news," said Clifford. "It shows the subscriber land-grab is over and the US is moving on to real data revenues." Presenting a new version of the company's market share chart, he revealed Apple now has a major slice of the US smartphone market, but as the US part of the world's smartphone markets has grown, Symbian has kept its share of the sector.

As on previous occasions, he noted that Google's Android is only one of several Linux devices, which contribute to a fragmentation of the market. Linux phones remain a competitor in the Far East, but they are losing share to Symbian, he said.

While Android might produce a phone operating system that is effectively free to operators, Clifford said this attraction was "spurious". "The Linux code is a fraction of what you need on a phone," he said, pointing out that the price of the Symbian operating system is being steadily reduced to other operating systems.