Symbian and Intel form 3G alliance

Symbian Expo: The operating-system developer will work with chip giant Intel to help create third-generation smartphones with better features

Symbian has announced that it has formed an alliance with Intel to develop a reference platform for third-generation mobile phones.

David Levin, Symbian chief executive, told the Symbian Expo that the move would help handset manufacturers to develop 3G smartphones based on Symbian's Series 60 interface.

"This will reduce the time it takes licensees to get a handset to market, and it will reduce their development costs," said Levin.

"This is critical for manufacturers. This evolution will let them focus their development work on areas of the phone that will differentiate it in the marketplace, and let them move away from worrying about the plumbing side," Levin added.

Levin did not disclose further details on the alliance with Intel, but did say that Symbian was hoping that shipments of phones based on its operating system would increase sharply over the next few years

"If we look at trends in hardware, in four to five years there will be 200 million phones that have a hardware specification that can run an open operating system, and would benefit from an intelligent open operating system," Levin forecast.

"We'll be targeting that 200-million market over the next five years," he said.

Currently, the vast majority of Symbian phones in the market or due to ship soon use TI chips, according to Texas Instruments. The company claimed today that 28 out of 31 Symbian phones use its technology, with more than 85 percent of those shipped in 2004 based on TI's OMAP processor platform.

STMicro, which makes the Nomadik multimedia processor, also recently announced a Series 60 reference platform after it had added optimisations to the chip to make it work more closely with Symbian.

At present Symbian phones make up only a small fraction of the total mobile market. Levin said that five million Symbian devices shipped in the first half of 2004, compared to 6.7 million in the whole of 2003.

Miles Flint, president of Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications, acknowledged that Symbian devices were only a small segment of his company's overall business, but insisted it was a vital part of that business.

ZDNet UK's Rupert Goodwins contributed to this report.