Android just another Linux platform, says Symbian CEO

Symbian CEO Nigel Clifford says he's already spoilt for choice with Linux-based cell phone platforms and that Google's Android software unveiled Monday appears to be another to add to the list.

"One of the reactions is, it's another Linux platform," he said at a Tokyo news conference when asked about Google's new phone platform. "There's 10, 15, 20, maybe 25 different Linux platforms out there. It sometimes appears that Linux is fragmenting faster than it unifies."

Symbian recognizes Google's commitment to "openness" and sees that as a good thing, Clifford said. "But I probably would say there is no such thing as free software."

Symbian will be among Google's competitors as it tries to bring its new phone software to market.

Android was developed by Google and others under the umbrella of the "Open Handset Alliance". The platform will be based on Linux and other open source elements and offer a complete set of phone components, including an operating system, middleware stack, customizable user interface and applications.

A number of big names in the wireless industry have already thrown their weight behind OHA, including carriers such as T-Mobile, NTT DoCoMo, Sprint Nextel, Telecom Italia and China Mobile; handset makers, including Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, Motorola and HTC; and others such as Intel, ebay, NVidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments.

Clifford seemed unfazed at the competition for Symbian, which has the lion's share of the smart-phone market in all regions except North America.

"I think if you look at the market share slides you'll see we're no stranger to competing with big brands," he said. "One other element is to look at where the biggest opportunity is, and that is competing inside our customers for those products which are currently using our customers' operating systems."

Indeed, three of Symbian's biggest supporters -- Samsung, LG and Motorola -- are also partners in the OHA, so the two platforms will be competing to get in those manufacturers' handsets.

"We're the market leader, and we aim to remain the market leader," he said.

Clifford was in Tokyo to attend the Symbian Summit event that kicks off Wednesday. Japan is a major market for the company and its platform can be found 64 models of handset with combined shipments of almost 30 million units.

At the news conference he also disclosed Symbian's third quarter operating results.

A total of 20.4 million handsets with the Symbian OS shipped during the third quarter, which runs from July through September, up 56% over the 13 million shipped in the same period last year, Symbian said. There were 134 handset models on sale during the quarter, up from 106 models available in last year's third quarter.

Market researcher iSuppli said that mobile phone shipments overall reached 283 million units during the third quarter, up 15.4% over the 245.3 million units shipped a year earlier.

Nokia, which is Symbian's largest shareholder, shipped 111.7 million handsets during the third quarter, up 26% over the same time last year, according to Nokia.

(Dan Nystedt in Taipei contributed to this report)

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