Nokia brings Symbian in house; Foundation becomes licensing vehicle

The Symbian SEE shows kicked off in Amsterdam on Tuesday and it’s probably quite an interesting event to be at. If only because all the rumours were true: the Foundation will transition into another entity and the Symbian operating system itself will finally be absorbed by Nokia.

In the wake of mass abandonment of the platform, leaving Nokia as its sole supporter, and news of financial troubles, the Symbian Foundation will take on the role of a “legal entity responsible for licensing software and other intellectual property, such as the Symbian trademark.”

Of course, licensing that trademark requires a lot less manpower, so widespread job cuts are expected. “By April 2011, the Symbian Foundation will be governed by a group of non-executive directors tasked with overseeing the organisation’s licensing function,” the organisation said.

Nokia meanwhile, is to finally accept the inevitable and commit to making the future development of the Symbian platform its own responsibility while continuing to make the OS available to the ecosystem via an alternative direct and open model.

“The founding board members took a bold strategic step in setting up the foundation, which was absolutely the right decision at the time,” says Tim Holbrow, executive director of the Symbian Foundation. “There has since been a seismic change in the mobile market but also more generally in the economy, which has led to a change in focus for some of our funding board members. The result of this is that the current governance structure for the Symbian platform – the foundation – is no longer appropriate.

“The future of Symbian as a platform does not depend on the existence of the foundation,” said Jo Harlow, senior vice president of smartphones at Nokia. “The changes announced by the foundation have no impact on Nokia’s Symbian device roadmaps or shipping commitments.”

None of this has really come as a surprise. What did come as a surprise however was the creation of a consortium called SYMBEOSE, which stands for “Symbian – the Embedded Operating System for Europe,” last week. According to the consortium: “The precise aim of the Symbeose consortium is to instigate a series of state-of-the-art development projects that will create new opportunities for Symbian’s global stakeholders,” whatever that means. Nevertheless, the move has got the backing of the European Commission (EC) and something called the Artemis Joint Technology Initiative, as well as €22m in funding, which should keep the remaining employees of the foundation going for a little longer.

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