Symbian pushes into Chinese mobile market

The Symbian Foundation on Wednesday moved to boost the platform’s market share by exploiting the potential of one of the world’s fastest growing mobile markets. Under a deal with China Mobile, the world’s largest operator in terms of subscribers, the Foundation will collaborate on a series of mobile initiatives in China, including a focus on the locally developed 3G standard, TD-SCDMA.

As part of the joint initiative, the Foundation will launch a simplified version of its Symbian Signed testing service to help mobile application developers get their apps into China Mobile’s newly launched app store.

The development platform will provide app developers with a one stop shop for testing, signing and publishing their apps. China Mobile said that over 50 per cent of its Mobile Market’s 2,000 applications are based on Symbian.

Under the deal, the Symbian Foundation has also pledged to support China’s homegrown 3G standard and will drive development of Symbian-based TD-SCDMA devices going forward.

But there may be bigger news for Symbian in the pipeline. China Mobile’s app store is part of an initiative launched by the Joint Innovation Lab (JIL), the mobile web technology incubator established by Vodafone, Verizon, China Mobile and Softbank. The four companies are using the JIL as a platform to develop mobile services to benefit of their combined global customer base, with a particular focus on emerging technologies such as widgets and app stores.

While individually branded app stores are being launched by Vodafone, Verizon, Softbank and China Mobile, they will all feature the same wares, giving developers access to a potential market of around 850 million subscribers. So Symbian’s deal may go further than what has been announced with China Mobile this week.

Indeed, the JIL app stores rely on Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that are agnostic of the operating system, and as a result the platform will be an open, widget-based environment that largely depends on the capabilities of the web browser on the device. The first browser to be supported by the JIL app store platform is Opera, so it will be devices based on the Symbian S60 operating system that get first access.

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