Samsung has committed to building smartphones based on software from Nokia, potentially giving the Korean consumer electronics giant one of the broadest ranges of high-end mobile phones on the market. Samsung is already planning handsets based on Microsoft's Smartphone 2002 software, one of the few major manufacturers to have adopted that platform.
Nokia has already licensed its Series 60 software, based on the Symbian operating system, to Siemens and Matsushita, and has itself released the Series 60-based 7650 handset. Series 60 consists of a set of personal information management and telephony applications, a Web browser, messaging clients and a modifiable user interface. Licensees get access to the software's source code, which allows them to completely customise the phone's look and feel, and create value-added applications.
This approach is far more liberal than Microsoft's licensing model for Windows-Powered Smartphone 2002, which places more emphasis on consistency with the Windows brand.
"The licensing model with access to the source code will give us the opportunity to contribute to and influence the platform development," said Byung Duck Cho, senior vice president with Samsung Electronics, in a statement on Friday. "The platform's flexibility will enable us to maintain in our product portfolio a high competitive edge associated with Samsung brand."
Smartphones have not yet proven to be a hit with consumers or businesses, but most handset makers are planning some sort of entry into the market. Network operators hope that the handsets will help them make money from their expensive data-enabled networks, while manufacturers hope to spur new sales as mobile phone markets approach saturation.
Nokia began pushing the Series 60 licensing programme earlier this year as a way of jump-starting the smartphone market, by creating a widely used platform that would let handsets from different manufacturers run the same software. Texas Instruments and STMicroelectronics both sell ready-made hardware platforms compatible with Series 60. Licensees can freely modify the software's source code, but if they make changes that affect interoperability they are required to make the modifications available to other licensees.
The addition of Samsung to the Series 60 bandwagon is a significant boost for the platform, since Samsung is now the third-largest mobile phone maker after Nokia and Motorola. Sony Ericsson, the fifth largest, will sell a handset later this year that is based on the same Symbian operating system as Series 60. While Series 60 is designed for one-handed use, Sony Ericsson's P800 is designed for use with a stylus.
The Series 60 handsets are generally characterised by colour displays and support for standards such as Multimedia Messaging (MMS), Java and WAP/XHTML. Some, like the 7650, also include built-in cameras.
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