Symbian backers lure developers

3GSM: Two of Symbian's biggest backers, Nokia and Sony Ericsson, will unify their development tools to speed the rollout of new software

Nokia and Sony Ericsson, two of the world's biggest mobile phone makers, have said they plan to work together to make it easier for developers to build applications for the two companies' smartphones.

Sony Ericsson and Nokia both make handsets based on Symbian's smartphone operating system, but the handsets use different user interfaces and have separate software developer kits (SDKs). On Monday, however, the companies said they would alighn the two SDKs, making it possible for developers to use a single set of tools to develop for both Nokia's Series 60 interface and the UIQ interface used by Sony Ericsson's P800.

The ramifications extend to other companies as well, since Nokia has licensed Series 60 to several other handset makers, including Sendo, Samsung, Siemens and Panasonic.

The companies made the announcement at the 3GSM Congress wireless trade show in Cannes, France.

Nokia and Sony Ericsson will also create a common certification programme for Symbian OS applications, in an effort to ensure the quality of new smartphone programs. The scheme will let developers, network operators and phone customers test and certify Symbian applications, the companies said.

Developers seeking to port existing applications to the Symbian OS will also get better support and documentation, the companies promised.

Symbian said that the effort was aimed at increasing the number of applications for the platform, a key factor in persuading users to choose Symbian. "This new collaboration with Nokia and Sony Ericsson will drive even faster development and availability of innovative applications and services for Symbian OS phones," said Symbian chief executive David Levin in a statement.

The companies allied with Symbian are currently facing off against their most aggressive competitor, software company Microsoft, in the nascent market for smartphones -- handsets with powerful processors that can run advanced programs as well as making phone calls.

On Monday Symbian announced that Samsung, which has emerged into the top ranks of handset makers in recent months, will buy a 5 percent stake in the company for £17m, joining shareholders Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, Matsushita Electric Industrial, Siemens and Psion.

Park Sang Jin, vice president of telecommunications at Samsung Electronics, said at a press conference that the company saw "great growth potential" in Symbian and would "try to make it a standard."

For its part, Microsoft is planning to show a Samsung smartphone based on Windows for Smartphones at 3GSM. Microsoft also announced that T-Mobile will be rolling out a Windows smartphone in Europe later this year, joining carrier Orange. T-Mobile will also be offering Pocket MSN, a subscription-based service for Pocket PC and Windows smartphones that offers access to MSN features such as Hotmail.

The company also said that Orange will be offering a service called Mobile2Market that makes it easier for users to download and install the latest applications for Windows smartphones.

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