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The Economist: Symbian's friends

May 28, 1999, 22:57 (6 Talkback[s])


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"This week... Matsushita Communication, the world's fourth-biggest mobile-phone maker, announced that it was taking a 9% shareholding in Symbian, an 11-month-old software joint venture fostered by Psion, a small but pioneering British company that makes handheld computers. ... Why should that concern the mighty Microsoft?

The reason is the identity of Symbian's other shareholders-they are Nokia, Motorola and Ericsson, the three giants of the mobile-telephone industry. With Matsushita on board, Symbian's parents now account for some 85% of the world's 175m[million]-odd mobile phones. Because of its mighty parents, Symbian is a potential powerhouse that threatens to lock Microsoft out of a market that could reach 150m [million] devices by 2005 and may be even more important for the development of the Internet than set-top boxes.

Symbian was set up in the hope of creating a common software platform built around Psion's EPOC operating system for what it calls 'wireless information devices'. What drew the mobile-phone firms to Symbian was the quality of the EPOC technology and their conviction, born of Europe's experience with digital GSM, that an open standard was critical if the new market was to take off."

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