MANHASSET, N.Y. The world's largest handset vendor's announcement on Tuesday (June 25) that it plans to buy the rest of Symbian, the OS company holding two thirds of the global smart phone market, has generated a flurry of favorable press, much of it praising Nokia's "bold" move.
The most popular analysis paints Nokia as a winner and Google as the loser. The deal is also seen as a victory for the open-source movement, with Nokia validating a business model pursued by competitors like Google's Android platform and LiMo (Linex Mobile) Foundation.
But further interviews with Nokia and Symbian executives reveal more than a few bumps waiting in the "open" road to the Symbian Foundation.
Here are seven things you need to know in order to understand what's behind the Nokia/Symbian deal and what it means for the industry:
1. It's going to be a long process?
Don't hold your breath. It will be years before Nokia can migrate all the associated properties and assets into the Symbian Foundation and then make its offerings available under the Eclipse public license model.
Lee Williams, Nokia's senior vice president for S60 Software, explained a three-phase program in an interview with EE Times:
In the first phase, Nokia will contribute to the Symbian Foundation--a new non-profit organization--the core code behind Symbian's operating system along with S60, Nokia's user interface, middleware and everything that comes with its platform for Symbian-based smart phones. The goal is to allow handset vendors to execute their product development under the royalty-free license program.
But foundation members won't be able to stop royalty payments to Symbian and Nokia until the first quarter of 2009. Those payments cover the use of Symbian's OS, and Nokia's S60 user interface. While Nokia wouldn't disclose its fee for S60, mobile makers currently pay royalties as high as $5 per unit to Symbian.
During phase two, members will start adding and integrating some assets from the Mobile-Oriented Application Platform used as NTT DoCoMo's platform for its mobile phones and UIQ, a software platform based on Symbian OS, as complements to the Symbian Foundation's offerings. This alone could take up to two years, according to Williams.
In the third phase expected to begin in 2011, the foundation's offerings will finally start to evolve with the help of the open-source community. Development results will be released to the community under the Eclipse Public License (EPL).
Compared with other open-source license models, Nokia believes that EPL, often known as a business-friendly free software license, will make a difference. Williams said EPL can provide "proper protection for core source code," allowing developers to do "derivative work" while giving licensees "strong ability for differentiation."