Europe is becoming increasingly nervous as Android and Apple’s iOS continue to dominate the smartphone market worldwide.
“There’s a concerted effort on three different fronts where European carriers and manufacturers, mainly carriers, are sounding alarms about not wanting an Apple-Google duopoly,” Marc Beccue, a senior analyst at ABI Research, told TechNewsWorld.
“France Telecom’s CEO has said he believes Apple and Google are Trojan horses to capture loyal customers,” Beccue added.
One of the three areas the Europeans are working on is Symbian, the operating system from Nokia. They set up the Symbeose consortium to develop the OS further.
The other two European efforts are the WebinOS and Mosquito projects.
Could the Europeans be shaping up for a war with the United States in the mobile device sector?
Symbian Isn’t Dead, It’s just Hibernating
Many thought Nokia had turned its back on the Symbian operating system when it struck a deal with Microsoft in February to use Windows Phone 7.
The company shut down the Symbian Foundation and killed the foundation’s public relations budget, Andrea Heuer of Consort Partners, the foundation’s public relations agency, told TechNewsWorld.
However, Nokia seems to want to keep Symbian alive. In fact, it released two new Symbian smartphones — the E6 and the X7 — on Tuesday.
“Nokia has internalized Symbian and plans to use it for their lower-end smartphones,” Mark Beccue, a senior analyst at ABI Research, suggested prior to the Tuesday releases.
That could mean a big change in the role of Symbian.
“The Symbian that existed the past few years — an open operating system available to other handset manufacturers — now ceases to exist,” Beccue told TechNewsWorld.
Nokia did not respond to TechNewsWorld’s requests to comment for this story.
Europe Throws Its Weight Behind Symbian
The Europeans appear to be interested in working on their own home-grown mobile OS, and apparently are thinking of using Symbian for that.
Symbeose, a consortium of major technology and research organizations, has been created to propose development projects to enhance the Symbian platform.
Symbeose stands for “Symbian — the Embedded Operating System for Europe.” The consortium consists of 24 organizations from seven different countries.
Symbian was identified by the Artemis Joint Technology Initiative as a vital focus for European-centric mobile software development under an initiative sponsored by the European Commission.
The EU kicked in 11 million Euros, or just over US$15 million, to fund development projects proposed by the Symbeose consortium. Another 11 million Euros came from consortium members.
The consortium will target future technologies for inclusion in Symbian. It will also work on making Symbian a platform for multiple types of mobile Internet-connected devices.
The Symbian Foundation did not respond to TechNewsWorld’s request to comment for this story.
Nokia’s revitalization of Symbian may change the situation.
“I think it would be ludicrous for Symbeose to move forward, as it would simply be the EU’s funding research and development for Nokia now,” ABI Research’s Beccue opined. “If that’s now the case, they should call it funding for Nokia.”
Artemis Isn’t Just a Goddess
Artemis Joint Technology Initiatives are long-term public-private partnerships implemented under Article 171 of the EC Treaty.
There’s a lot more waffle, which boils down to this: Europe conducts various joint public-private sector research programs on technologies it deems to be strategic. These include mobile communications in general and Symbian in particular.
Alun Foster, program manager at the Artemis Joint Undertaking, declined to respond to queries from TechNewsWorld.
WebinOS consists of 22 partners from academic institutions, industry research firms, software companies, handset manufacturers and auto manufacturers throughout Europe.
The project, launched in September 2009, has a war chest of more than 14 million euros, or almost US$20 million. It is scheduled to end October 2013.
The WebinOS project aims to define and deliver an open source platform and components for the future Internet, which will enable Web apps and services to be used and shared securely over devices ranging from PCs to TVs to mobile devices to in-car units.
It’s aiming at a one-size-fits-all future Web platform, in other words.
Stephan Fraunhofer, the project coordinator for WebinOS, did not respond to TechNewsWorld’s requests to comment for this story.
There Shall Come a Mosquito
The Mosquito project is funded by the EU.
It will identify and document fragmentation issues that could prevent the full development of mobile applications and services. It will support the standardization of mobile Internet services and promote collaboration in the industry.
Mosquito will support the cross-sector convergence of IT, telecoms and media in mobile Internet applications and services.
Launched in September 2010, the project has a budget of 700,000 euros or more than US$970,000. It is scheduled to end August 2012.
Taking Off the Gloves
The Mosquito project’s aim is to “strategically win the race for the Future Internet Service,” its website says.
While the other two EU projects don’t say anything about challenging American supremacy in the mobile market, it’s likely they share the same goal.
Still, how much of a threat will they be?
“At best, these moves will just keep Symbian around a bit longer than otherwise,” Allen Nogee, a principal analyst at In-Stat, told TechNewsWorld. “Europe hasn’t been a leader in the smartphone space.”
With the pace of change in the mobile market being so rapid, nothing is set in stone.
“I’m not even sure that Android or iOS will be the market leader five or 10 years from now,” said Nogee. “Also, no one OS will ever succeed around the world.”