Symbian pushes for smartphones in the enterprise

LONDON — Symbian may provide an operating system for what it calls the smartphone, but the company’s chief executive said he is counting on dummies to drive the adoption of mobile applications.

In his keynote address to the sixth annual Symbian Expo, David Levin held up a small booklet that

was distributed at the door of the two-day event. Titled “”Symbian Smartphones for Dummies,”” the 26-page guide to user interfaces and cellphone features joins the popular For Dummies series of reference books. Levin said the booklet comes at a time when the cellular industry has exploded to an estimated 500 million users worldwide. About 200 million phones will possess a hardware specification capable of running Symbian OS by 2008 or 2009, Levin said, which represents the addressable market the company will be chasing over the next five years. Symbian is a privately-held firm co-owned by several vendors, including Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Samsung.

Besides better educating users, Levin said the challenge for Symbian is to drive adoption of its standardized platform into more of the wider-device industry, which still relies for the most part on proprietary operating systems. To date, Symbian’s installed base has grown to 15 million, Levin said, with 10 licensees expected to develop 40 phones in the next 12-18 months.

“”If you put it in that larger perspective, our success at best is promising,”” he said.

Reduce time to market

As part of its growth strategy, Symbian announced it will work with Intel Corp. to develop a reference platform for third-generation (3G) phones using its OS and the chipmaker’s XScale processor, which is built to consume less power while fitting into mobile devices. Levin said the agreement will reduce time to market for manufacturers by accelerating product development.

“”The first stage was proving this OS as a technology. This was virgin territory,”” he said. “”This kind of evolution will allow them to focus on those levels of the phone that will let them differentiate themselves and less on low-level integration.””

Sony Ericsson, the joint venture firm created more than a year ago, has invested more than £57.4 million (about $130 million) in Symbian because it believes in the idea of an open, independent OS, according to Sony Ericsson president Miles Flint. He said the company is counting on Symbian to facilitate joint efforts across the industry to provide new drivers, APIs and encourage application certification.

“”The proprietary OSes have been more long-lasting than we might have thought in the early days of Symbian,”” Flint said, adding standardization could help offset the rising complexity that’s coming from a multiplicity of user interfaces. “”I think Symbian does need to take more of that ground.””

Cellphones have traditionally been treated as a consumer device, but this year’s Symbian Expo developed around a theme of pushing smartphones into the enterprise.

Flint pointed to a wealth of applications, including antivirus, virtual private network software and device managers for mobile phones that could ease fears in the enterprise where IT infrastructure is slower to respond to mobile users’ needs. “”The CIO can relax,”” Flint said.

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