PARIS Nokia has signed consumer electronics giant Samsung Electronics as the latest licensee of its homegrown smart phone software platform, Series 60, which is essentially becoming the de facto standard for smart phones.
The four companies with Series 60 licenses Nokia, Siemens, Matsushita and Samsung control 60 percent of the global handset market.
Licensees to the Series 60, a Symbian OS-based platform for next-generation mobile handsets for GSM, GPRS and 3G wireless networks, have access to such basic building blocks as Texas Instruments' OMAP processor architecture and smart phone source code developed internally by Nokia. In addition to TI, STMicroelectronics also offers a reference platform that's compliant with Nokia's Series 60, according to Timo Poikolainen, vice president of marketing at Nokia Mobile Software. "It is not limited to those two chip companies, but so far, those are the two companies we've worked with."
Nokia's objectives in opening up its source code and signing competitive handset vendors as Series 60 platform licensees is to maximize and accelerate "interoperability between applications and mobile handsets based on a common architecture," Poikolainen said.
As a number of mobile phone operators in Europe KPN of the Netherlands, Sonera of Finland, Telefonica of Spain and MobilCom take huge write-downs on the value of their 3G investments, Europe's once ambitious hopes for 3G networks and services are fading quickly. Operators are tasked with fixing a number of technical glitches to insure interoperability among different handsets and different networks.
Nevertheless, Nokia's Poikolainen said, a common software platform like Series 60 "will most certainly help boost the overall take-off of next-generation mobile applications and networks."
Companies that license Nokia's Series 60 platform are free to develop their own value-added features using Nokia's source code. But "if they develop something that may impact the interoperability, they are asked to share it with other licensees, by returning their innovation or improvement back to the master code," Poikolainen said.
The Series 60 licensees appear eager to work with Nokia on its interoperability goal.
"Series 60 is an ideal software platform for the advanced smart phones," Byung-Duck Cho, senior vice president of the mobile communications R&D team at Samsung Electronics, said in a statement. "The licensing model with access to the source code will give us the opportunity to contribute to and influence the platform development. The platform's flexibility will enable us to maintain in our product portfolio a high competitive edge associated with the Samsung brand."
So far, Nokia is the only company to launch a smart phone based on the Series 60 platform, specifically its 7650 model. Poikolainen said Nokia is confident that licensees will follow suit as they launch the new generation of advanced handsets for GSM and GPRS.
Smart phones, according to Poikolainen, feature a high-quality color screen; the ability to capture, send and receive multimedia-rich messages; built-in support for Java-based content; a state-of-the-art Web browser; support for data communications; USB and Bluetooth connectivity; and possibly an integrated digital camera. The Series 60 platform supports open and common key technologies, and consists of key telephony and personal information management applications, browser and messaging clients, and a complete and modifiable user interface, he said.