Sharp To Join Symbian Stable?
By Carlo Longino, Fri Jul 09 02:45:00 GMT 2004

Sharp's executive director wants to boost its overseas handset sales, and says the Symbian OS is the way to do it.

Masafumi Matsumoto told a press conference Thursday that Sharp's mobile-phone sales in the April-June quarter surpassed the company's estimates, but more interestingly, he says the company might turn to the Symbian OS to boost its overseas handset sales. Sharp, which currently uses the ITRON operating system in its handsets, sells 70% of its handsets in Japan through carriers NTT DoCoMo and Vodafone, but would like to sell half its devices outside its home country.

He says phones running Symbian would be easier to distribute outside Japan, and would be easier to differentiate for carriers. Sharp is something of a leader in handset customization, as Vodafone turned to the maker to create a customized device for the launch of its Vodafone Live! service when European makers balked at its demands. The success of the Vodafone-branded handsets has forced some manufacturers to soften their stance against customization.

Sharp could offer Symbian-based handsets as soon as 2005, according to TechJapan. It would be the sixth Japanese device maker to license Symbian, following Fujitsu (which has released the only devices to use the OS in the Japanese market thus far), Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Sanyo and Sony.

Should Sharp license Symbian and follow through with its reasoning that the OS will make customization easier, it will swing the momentum in the carrier-handset vendor tussle firmly back to the carriers. As noted earlier, Sharp has already proved itself willing to meet operator demands -- a lesson learned in its home market. An even more damaging blow would be if Sharp did it with Nokia's Series 60 user interface for Symbian.