1 July 2008

Win-win: how the Symbian Foundation helps Google to win

Filed under: collaboration, Google, RIM — David Wood @ 9:29 am

Olga Kharif of Business Week has found an interesting new angle on the Symbian Foundation announcement, in her article “How Nokia’s Symbian Move Helps Google“:

Nokia rocked the wireless industry June 24 with news it would purchase the portion of Symbian, a maker of mobile-phone software, that it didn’t already own—and then give away the software for nothing. …

But Nokia’s move may play right into Google’s hands, by helping to nurture a blossoming of the mobile Web and spur demand for all manner of cell-phone applications—and most important, the ads sold by Google. “There’s nothing to say that this isn’t what Google’s plan was all along,” says Kevin Burden, research director, mobile devices at consultancy ABI Research. “They might have wanted a more open device environment anyway. This might have been Google’s end game.”

My comment on this analysis is: why does it need to be a bad thing for Nokia and Symbian, if the outcome has benefits for Google? If Google wins (by being able to sell more ads on mobile phones than before), does it mean that Nokia and Symbian lose? I think not. I prefer to see this as being mutually beneficial.

The truth is, many of the companies who provide really attractive applications and services for Symbian-powered phones are both complementors and competitors of Symbian:

  • RIM provide the first class BlackBerry email service that runs on my Symbian-powered Nokia E61i and which I use virtually every hour I’m awake; they also create devices that run their own operating system, and which therefore compete with Symbian devices
  • Google, as well as working on Android, provide several of the other mobile applications that I use heavily on my E61i, including native Google Maps and native Google Search.

If companies like RIM and Google are able, as a result of the Symbian Foundation and its unification of the currently separate Symbian UIs (not to mention the easier accessibility of the source code), to develop new and improved applications for Symbian devices more quickly than before – then it will increase the attractiveness of these devices. RIM and Google (and there are many others too!) will benefit from increased services revenues which these mobile apps enable. Symbian and the various handset manufacturers who use the Symbian platform will benefit from increased sales and increased usage of the handsets that contain these attractive new applications and services. Win-win.

I see two more ways in which progress by any one of the open mobile operating systems (whether Android or the Symbian Platform, etc) boosts the others:

  1. The increasing evident utility of the smartphones powered by any one of these operating systems, helps spread word of mouth among end users that, hey, smartphones are pretty useful things to buy. So next time people consider buying a new phone, they’ll be more likely to seek out one that, in addition to good voice and text, also supplies great mobile web access, push email, and so on. The share of smartphones out of all mobile phones will rise.
  2. Progress of these various open mobile operating systems will help the whole industry to see the value of standard APIs, free exchange of source code, open gardens, and so on. The role of open operating systems will increase and that of closed operating systems will diminish.

In both cases, a rising tide will lift all boats. Or in the words of Symbian’s motto, it’s better to seek collaboration than to seek competition.

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