Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Nokia's Move to Open Mobile Software: Aimed at Google, But Impacting Publishers

The mobile phone world was a-twitter with word that Nokia has purchased mobile software maker Symbian and will make the core of its software an open source resource some time later this year via a new Symbian Foundation, with other open-source assets to follow. Engadget notes that the Symbian foundation will include many of the mobile industry's biggest names and will include technology donated from both Nokia and many others, including Motorola, Sony Ericsson and NTT DoCoM. Other members will include Texas Instruments, Vodafone, Samsung, LG, and, interestingly, AT&T, which has had great success as of late with the proprietary Apple iPhone platform.

Clearly the impending launch of Google's open source Andriod mobile platform, delayed in launch until the fall but looming nevertheless, has forced the hand of mobile equipment providers and network operators to consider the potential impact of having their highly proprietary approaches to mobile technologies "googled" away to the demand for more common mobile standards for software to power more content services development. By creating a common core of technologies based on a company with which it's had a long-standing relationship Nokia gets to expand the value of their knowledge of the platform in a way that may transform their business model over time from one of manufacturing to one of enabling systems development. Given the demand for mobile services in developing nations this will enable companies like Nokia to have a hand in those markets without having to bear the full cost of either hardware or software development through the Foundation's partner network.

But more importantly for the content industry this puts at least as much pressure on providers Microsoft, Palm, Apple and Research in Motion to recognize that there is ever more pressure on proprietary operating system solutions to justify their ways. With speed wireless broadband network services opening up the Web to mobile devices the ability to deliver platform-specific content services will become icing on the cake for those who want new status toys but for the bread-and-butter corprorate worker or mobile entrepreneurs and family members it may take more than just a few proprietary services and a delightful interface to keep people locked into a proprietary platform. For content suppliers looking for new "choke points" via proprietary platforms the short-term news via suppliers like Microsoft, RIM and Apple looks good, but the picture over the horizon is likely to look vastly different in less than a year. Be it via the Symbian Foundation or Android platforms, publishers need to stop looking again and again for new ways to activate old business models via mobile platforms and look far more aggressively at how they will survive and thrive in a world enabled with open and universal access to Web-enabled content sources.
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