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Nokia Dumps Symbian Services Unit

Posted by: Olga Kharif on July 17, 2009

Is this the beginning of the end for Symbian? On July 17, Nokia announced it will sell its Symbian professional services unit to Accenture. The division provides engineering consulting and product development services to mobile phone manufacturers, chip makers and wireless service providers that develop products based on Symbian software for mobile phones. This software is the most widely used in smartphones today, but it’s been fast losing ground to rivals such as Android.

The sale is yet another indication that “Nokia keeps distancing itself from Symbian, divesting of nearly anything that is directly related,” Jack Gold, principal at J. Gold Associates, wrote in this morning’s note. “This reinforces our earlier position that Symbian is no longer strategic to Nokia’s success.” Considering that Nokia is the world’s No. 1 cell phone maker, that’s bad news for Symbian.

Even though Symbian has been restructuring and making an effort to attract developers in order to stabilize its market share and regain its momentum, that may not be possible now as even its biggest supporter, Nokia, moves on to greener pastures. “I’d expect Nokia to offer ‘other’ [software, such as Android], within the year,” Gold writes. As it makes a push into Mobile Internet Devices, or tablets, Nokia will use alternative software rather than Symbian for those gadgets as well, he says.

Symbian will have “a tactical rather than a strategic potion in Nokia’s future,” Gold writes. And that likely means that Symbian will continue to see its market share melting despite all the changes and innovations it makes to the software.

That said, this is a smart move for Accenture, which likely picked up the unit on the cheap (the amount of the deal has not been disclosed). As handset makers and carriers launch their app stores and keep on innovating on handset software, they will want to outsource more of that work to reduce costs. That’s where Accenture will come in.

The company, which already has expertise in Windows Mobile and Symbian software, plans to leverage the staffers and know-hows it acquires from Nokia to expand into all kinds of mobile software, including Android. “We have a huge ambition in this space, and this is a strategic acquisition,” says Jean-Laurent Poitou, managing director of Accenture’s Electronics & High-Tech industry group.

Reader Comments

Jay Thompson

July 17, 2009 1:33 PM

This is an outstanding acquisition for Accenture. The world is all abuzz about Android and the Aye-Aye-phone, but Symbian is a full-fledged Mobile OS and could still be utilized. Nokia is making a mistake here. It is similar to the way Sony Ericsson gave up on UIQ just before the touchscreen phone market blossomed.

Kumar Sasank

July 17, 2009 4:02 PM

Windows Mobile, Android, Palm OS, Blackberry OS, Symbian, Linux and OS X is unsustainable. Some of these will have give way for standardization and/or interoperability. Otherwise, the world of mobile internet will remain fragmented. If Nokia has chosen to focus on internet based services, it has to let go of focussing upon the development of the operating system that is the core competence of the software giants (Read: Google, Microsft and a certain extent, Apple). I presume Accenture will do a job of maintaining the system than developing it which will stay with Symbian, the subsidiary.


July 17, 2009 4:07 PM

Outstanding acquisition? Nokia sales numbers suggest Symbian is a platform people neither want nor understand.

It doesn't seem plausible that a new steward for Symbian such as Accenture that lacks manufacturing and retail leverage can do anything to grow it.


July 18, 2009 9:41 AM

Great day for Nokia.
Symbian is really disaster and it is not getting better with new releases.
I think that 2002 they rewritten it, which proves that its flaws are not Psion legacy, but Symbian Software itself is not able to create anything usable.

If we look at the competition - TTM for iphoneOS or Android is light years faster than Symbian.

Anyway - where Nokia's trust in Symbaian is you can see few years ago when the released 770 tablet (and they continue this product line).


July 18, 2009 5:44 PM

People do have such a tendency that when they hear a new X is coming, they immediately claim the old X is over. Examples ? CDMA vs GSM, WiMax vs WiFi, LTE vs UMTS, now Andriod vs Symbian. The similar claim was made a few years back about Windows Mobile kicking Symbian out of smart phone or PDA market. Guess what, Windows Mobile seems to be the one losing the battle. Symbian is the most reliable mobile OS and will likely remain to be so for a number of years to come. Android ? maybe it's good or gonna be good. As for its chance of winning the mobile OS market quickly, I am not so sure about it just yet.


July 19, 2009 6:45 AM

Can this not be a simple case of outsourcing a department to Accenture? It is not simple outsourcing, but now it is going to hunt for non-NOK customers.

Ted Shelton

July 19, 2009 11:23 AM


It is a challenge to stay up on how all of this works, but please - "beginning of the end" looks a bit like link bait.

This division of the old Symbian Software Limited, which Nokia acquired last year, is in the business of supporting a wide variety of device manufacturers in building Symbian-based devices.

As it is quite hard for a company competing with Nokia to come to Nokia with their secret product plans and ask for help, any industry watcher could have assumed that this services group would be spun off from Nokia.

In fact, linking it up with Accenture is an enormous win for the entire Symbian ecosystem. Here at Symbian Foundation we are very happy to welcome Accenture to our marketplace.

Olga -- please let me know when you'd like to spend more time on getting to know all of the players in the most dynamic and largest mobile market in the world.

best regards,

Ted Shelton
Interim head of Marketing
Symbian Foundation

Lee M. Williams

July 20, 2009 7:20 AM

I think Mr. Gold is clearly misinformed, and appears unable to understand the distinction between a former business known as Symbian UK Limited and a new entity called the Foundation, designed to assist with the movement of the original code base to provide a truly open source alternative for an ecosystem.

Symbian is a trademark and label used to describe a collection of software platforms that thrive within an ecosystem of companies throughout the world that build the most sophisticated feature phone and smartphone products and services available in the marketplace.

It is clearly a win for companies across the supply chain, and in the best interest of an ecosystem if they can get high quality professional services from an outfit as qualified as Accenture. Furthermore, most of those companies feel more comfortable when they can invest in Symbian based development without having to deal with only one company, Nokia, to get the benefit of those investments.

To view this move as a Nokia divestment in the Symbian ecosystem is about as inaccurate an analysis as I can imagine. Come talk to us, and we can help sort out the facts, and give you a much better view of the strategies of the major members of our community.

// Lee


July 20, 2009 5:07 PM

Has everyone forgotten or missed that Symbian is taken open source by Nokia, kind of Linux, you know??

Not the best for Nokia to grab more and more control, consulting services, etc,etc,etc, over Symbian??

Strange article!

Petra Söderling

July 24, 2009 6:12 AM

This is not the beginning of an end, but a new beginning.

Symbian software is now open sourced, and the platform is hosted by Symbian Foundation. It is only natural for a community to grow with new members, and new companies joining the business ecosystem. If Nokia was controlling everything it would be difficult to talk about a true open community.

Divestment is not a sign of loss of strategic importance. On the contrary, giving out Symbian to open source and allowing other companies to make business around it only reinforces Symbian's competitiveness.

All Nokia's smartphones run on Symbian. Nokia's market share in this segment is 41%. Saying that this is not strategically important to Nokia is clearly false.

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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