Intel Links Up With Symbian
By Carlo Longino, Tue Oct 05 18:30:00 GMT 2004

After seeing little success with the reference designs it created for Microsoft's smartphone platform, Intel will now work with Symbian to create reference platforms for 3G handsets.

Intel is the de facto chipmaker of choice for PDAs running Windows Mobile and Palm operating systems, but the company has had a hard time making significant headway into mobile phones, dominated by the likes of Texas Instruments and Qualcomm. The company's reference designs for the Windows Mobile smartphone platform haven't gotten much traction, and now Intel is turning its eyes towards the growing Symbian market, where TI supplied chips for 85 percent of the phones running the OS that were shipped in the first half of the year.

The chipmaker said today it will jointly develop with Symbian a 3G reference platform based on its XScale processors, and also that it will develop chips to run Nokia's Symbian-based Series 60 platform. Intel wants to win a share of the mobile market, while Symbian and Nokia want to decrease the time and effort it takes new entrants to bring products based on their software to market. But another important consideration is that the two hope increased competition will drive down component prices, making it easier for smartphone devices to spread to the much more price-sensitive middle and low ends of the handset market.

Symbian CEO David Levin says there could be 200 million Symbian users within four or five years, and for this to happen, the operating system will have to move further down the food chain, since high-end smartphones are only thought to be about 10 percent of the total handset market. Closing the price gap between featurephones and smartphones is a crucial element of that, so anything that can make the phone cheaper to produce -- either through competition or by licensing standardized platforms -- will help offset some of the higher costs, like increased royalties, that come along with smartphones.