Weekly Wrap: Mobile OS Shakeup
By Carlo Longino, Fri Feb 13 09:00:00 GMT 2004

Nokia buys control of Symbian, PalmSource formally announces its two-pronged strategy, and more...


Nokia made a serious move this week when it announced it was purchasing Psion's interest in the Symbian mobile OS consortium, giving the Finnish behemoth two-thirds ownership and control. While Nokia's saying they'll keep things as they are at Symbian, it will be interesting to see how the other licensees -- and minority owners -- react as this plays out.

PalmSource made concrete plans we first told you about last week, renaming Palm OS 5 "Garnet" and Palm OS 6 "Cobalt". Garnet will be aimed at low-end smartphones, while Cobalt will be put in devices for the high end of the market. The new version 6 of the OS was supposed to be quite a step forward, but initial results seem disappointing -- not the least of which to Mac users, as Palm has dropped sync support for them.

Browser upstart Opera Software of Norway said this week it go public and list on the Oslo stock exchange in March. Though the company's desktop browser market share pales in comparison to Microsoft's 96%, Opera has found a great deal of success in the smartphone market. The IPO will fund an expansion, the company said, to hire more staff and grow bigger.

Japanese KDDI carrier again outgrew its rivals in January, adding four times the subscribers of either Vodafone or NTT DoCoMo. DoCoMo has touted their subscriber adds on their 3G FOMA network, but most of those are DoCoMo 2G subscribers switching over. KDDI's faster network and flat-rate data plan seem to be winning them a lot of users.

It was reported this week that Orange users with carrier-customized handsets from their "Signature" line generate double the monthly ARPU of users with standard handsets. The story gets spun as ammunition for carriers against major manufacturers that have resisted pushing the carrier's brand above their own, though there's some evidence that users with advanced devices, regardless if they're part of the Signature range or not, generate higher service revenues. Perhaps Orange's new mobile-content initiative and user education program have also contributed...

While digital cameras are forcing widespread change in the photography industry, some companies are also looking to cameraphones to help stem the losses. Photo paper companies, for instance, hope that people snapping images with their handsets will lead to a desire to print some of them out -- photos that without the devices likely would have never been taken in the first place.

One UK content developer said this week that it's going to supply Samsung with content crafted specifically for the manufacturer's phones, as most of the mobile content in the country will work only on Nokia phones. While now Samsung users will be able to find ringtones and images compatible with their device, it also points to a larger problem for the content industry -- that making content available across manufacturers and platforms can be an onerous demand on (often small) content developers.

Some "multimedia artists" are setting up an online game in Adelaide, Australia, that straddles the digital and physical worlds. The group, Blast Theory, have established the I Like Frank game for the city's Fringe Festival in March. Users with 3G phones will connect with PC users to play out a search for Frank through Adelaide, collaborating to find the game's elusive namesake.

You're still Bluejacking? Get with the program, it's all about Bluesnarfing now.

Elsewhere on the site, Peggy Salz tells us how Vodafone and NTT DoCoMo are taking remarkably different means to similar ends, while David Pescovitz fills us in on some technologies that could help make mobiles less annoying.