Mathew Ingram on The Symbian Unification

Globe & Mail Technology writer Mathew Ingram blogged this morning on Nokia’s announcement yesterday that they intend to acquire the outstanding shares of Symbian that they don’t already own, and together with a whole host of other mobile providers and vendors, will create an open source, unified and standard Mobile OS. From Nokia’s press release:

“Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and NTT DOCOMO announced today their intent to unite Symbian OS(TM), S60, UIQ and MOAP(S) to create one open mobile software platform. Together with AT&T;, LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments and Vodafone they plan to establish the Symbian Foundation to extend the appeal of this unified software platform.”

Where Mr. Ingram focused on the implications to Google and Apple, I wonder if there isn’t something more at play here.

The big deal here is that with all of the talk of Web 2.0 and SaaS, most in the know tend to think of these as relatively closed systems that are for the most part, Web only, with limited inputs and outputs to other devices and network points. This is certainly for good reason: The examples we’re often given for successful implementations of SaaS, namely Salesforce.com, Google Apps, and even Amazon’s AWS ‘computing cloud’ are all, at their first glance, Web-based.

Nokia, et al, recognize that if any revolutions are going to happen, they’re going to be mobile. And just like the browser wars of the late ’90’s, there is tremendous reason to think that the battleground will be the mobile handset.

Just as Salesforce.com beat entrenched CRM application providers by using the platform to extend the value of their services with third-party apps and widgets, and Facebook surpassed social networking leaders MySpace and Friendster in part by extending the value of the interaction with mini-applications that plug into people’s social networks and enable other forms of non-linear interactions (oh what would the world be without Scrabulous?).

But the iPhone has started to change our concept of Web 2.0 as a web only proposition. This is not because thinking is changing in the technology space, but rather because consumers have awoken to the power of these devices, largely due to the homebrew community that first hacked the iPhone last year. Indeed, once Apple saw the power (and the desire) they needed to open up the platform, and thus the tightly controlling SDK. Now, people realize that mobile phones are powerful input and output devices, and are the Conduit for generating and consuming Content and Commerce anytime, any place. The network provides access to the platform which, in turn provides the appropriate distribution to any device, including IPTV, Web, Digital Signage & Kiosks, and yes, Mobile devices.

Nokia and the rest of the gang are eying the other giants, Apple, Google, RIM, and yes Microsoft with wary eyes, and are firmly aware that the next big thing in mobile won’t be the handset, and it won’t be the content per se… It’s the platform and the network.

Mathew Ingram on the buyout

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