Symbian vows to win mid-market battle

3GSM: The smartphone operating system maker is determined to become a major player in the mobile mass market

Mobile operating system developer Symbian insisted on Tuesday that it will succeed in expanding its market share beyond high-end smartphones.

"We want to take our apps and software into what is currently called the feature phone market," Symbian chief executive Nigel Clifford told delegates at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona.

Symbian's operating system is used in many top-end business phones today, because of its support for features such as PIM, voice-conferencing, push email and Web access.

Critics have suggested Symbian's operating system might not be suitable for the feature phone market, because manufacturers wouldn't be prepared to pay Symbian's licensing costs if they weren't going to use all the functionality it offers.

Speaking to ZDNet UK at 3GSM, John Forsyth, Symbian's head of propositions, argued that as mass-market phones develop they will increasingly need a more powerful operating system such as Symbian's.

"The mass-market is still demanding in terms of the operating system because it requires a whole set of different features. The need for a high performing operating system does not diminish in the mid-range. Features we have to support in mid-range consumer type phones include support for music and associated storage, video support, etc.," said Forsyth.

Symbian isn't relaxing its grip on the high end of the market, though, and is striving to help develop the ultimate mobile device for the enterprise.

"In terms of the perfect device for business users — the coming together of a PDA and a Smartphone — it really depends on who you are. But we can do it all here at Symbian," said Forsyth.

Symbian, which faces competition from Microsoft with Windows 5.0, is now selling one phone per second, or 33 million throughout 2005, compared to the one million it sold in 2002.

With 60 million Symbian phones shipped in total, the software company said it now has between 60 and 70 percent of the smartphone market.

Symbian also revealed its revenue for the quarter reached £33.6m and the smartphone maker said it reached profitability for the first time in 2005.

Jo Best reported from Barcelona for silicon.com.