Symbian: Microsoft has got it wrong

Smart phones for the Old World: American dream?
Written by Jo Best, Contributor

Smart phones for the Old World: American dream?

Symbian CEO Nigel Clifford has hit out at arch-rival Microsoft's marketing strategy and business model - but has his eye on Gates-style US success.

Symbian, currently top dog in the smart phone operating system market with more than 100 million phones shipped, is well known in Europe, having been brought up under the powerful wing of Nokia. In North America, things haven't been so favourable for the company.

Major market share is something of an American dream for Symbian - a market where growth in smart phones of any stripe is outstripped by that of China. According to Clifford, the US is something of a mobile puzzle.

He said: "It's a thought path all its own... It's got a history of PDAs, people are happy to carry around multiple devices. That is a different paradigm to anywhere else in the world."

But Clifford believes the US is waking up to the smart phone. "At [wireless show] CTIA, there was a real sense of 'are we missing something?'. All of a sudden, there's thinking that says 'are we wrong or is the rest of the world wrong?'."

Given a magic wand, says the Symbian CEO, the US is where he'd wave it to pick up market share.

But Symbian's desired conquest of the Old World received somewhat of a kidney punch. In the US, Motorola, not Nokia, is the big noise. It's the number one seller across the pond and despite its occasional flirtations with Symbian, it's firmly committed to Linux - announcing in August that 50 per cent of Motorola devices will be running on the open source operating system.

Clifford noted: "With Linux, the only people to make it work are very big organisations. We wish them luck. We'll keep on trying, we'll keep on talking [to Motorola] and never say never."

Stateside, even Microsoft is even more of a contender than Symbian - but Clifford doesn't plan to copycat Gates.

He said: "We're more friendly, we're less threatening, we're more collaborative [than Microsoft]. How many people make money from Windows? One... We only operate in one place in the value chain. We do our job, we take the licence fee and best of luck to whoever uses it."

And unlike Microsoft, Symbian wants to keep in the background. No 'Nokia N95 brought to you by Symbian'-style self-promotion for the company. Microsoft, however, favours a more 'look at me' attitude to the mobile OS, running a high profile ad campaign aimed at making the operating system a factor when a consumer chooses their next phone.

Clifford said: "Good for them. Let's point to the commercial success these two strategies have had."

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