Siemens joins Symbian consortium

The mobile-phone arm of Siemens AG has bought a 5 percent stake in Symbian Ltd., the London-based consortium of handset makers that develops an operating system for mobile phones.

The €22.8 million (US$20.3 million) investment comes after "careful evaluation" of the Symbian OS and strengthens Siemens' commitment to the operating system for mobile phones, Siemens of Munich said in a statement Tuesday. Siemens took out a license for the Symbian OS last year.

Symbian's software, available in phones today, competes with Microsoft Corp.'s emerging Windows Powered Smartphone 2002 and Palm Inc.'s Palm OS for phones. All these operating systems add PDA (personal digital assistant) functionality to a phone.

Siemens plans to release its first mobile phone running the Symbian OS later this year, it said. However, Siemens does not rule out using other operating systems as well, spokesman Axel Heim said.

"We don't want to focus in one direction; we are open-minded. It depends on what the customer needs. If he needs to use (Microsoft) Office documents, for example, the Microsoft operating system might fit better," he said.

Siemens in March announced a PDA that can double as a mobile phone and runs Microsoft's Pocket PC 2002 software.

The investment by Siemens brings financial stability for Symbian, but adds competing interests, commented Andy Buss, an analyst with research firm Canalys Ltd. in Reading, England.

"Symbian has more financial stability now, but also has more administrative overhead and competing interests that it will have to try to keep at bay," he said.

Siemens Information and Communication Mobile (ICM) bought new shares in Symbian, diluting the stake of Symbian's existing shareholders Nokia Corp., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., Motorola Inc., Psion PLC and Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB.

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