New Symbian CEO named

The market-leading smartphone OS maker has named Nigel Clifford as its new CEO, but questions are being asked about his international pedigree

Symbian has announced Nigel Clifford will be the company's new CEO, starting this June.

He takes over from David Levin, who left the smartphone operating system company in April to become the chief executive at United Business Media.

Clifford, 45, was formerly CEO at telecoms software and service provider Tertio Telecoms and joins Symbian charged with boosting the smartphone OS company's shipments in the mid-range mobile segment.

Symbian was known to have used headhunters Russell Reynolds in its search and, according to the Financial Times, Clifford was chosen from among 12 potential candidates and his selection has raised eyebrows and questions alike. Despite the low profile of Tertio Telecoms, the company's customers include some well-known names, including Hutchison, Telewest, T-Mobile and Vodafone.

Under Clifford's leadership, Tertio opened new offices outside Europe in order to make inroads into the Asia-Pacific market. That broader geographical reach made the company a ripe takeover target, eventually resulting in its $41m sale to US-based Evolving Systems.

Clifford's move to from Tertio to Symbian will see the ex-Cable & Wireless vice-president heading up a considerably larger company than in the past: Tertio Telecoms' revenue for in full year 2003 came in at £10.8m, a fraction of the £26.6m that Symbian raked in the first half of 2004. However, during his time at Cable & Wireless, Clifford handled a capital programme in excess of £200m.

He has also held executive positions at BT, where he stayed for 11 years, and the Glasgow Royal Infirmary University NHS Trust.

Clifford's uniquely British pedigree has provoked questions as to whether he will be able to take Symbian into pastures new.

Steve Brazier, analyst at research firm Canalys, said: "It's difficult to forget Symbian's past inside Psion — ultimately it didn't succeed because it failed to internationalise. There's some level of disappointment about the appointment of a classic British executive."

Sir Peter Gershon, independent non-executive chairman at Symbian, said in a statement that Clifford's appointment is the result of a "wide-ranging search" and that "Nigel was our unanimous choice".