22 October 2002 South Korean electronics giant Samsung has become the latest mobile phone manufacturer to license Symbian’s operating system, strengthening the UK-based venture’s grip on the embryonic wireless data industry.
The addition of Samsung to the roll call of Symbian licensees will be seen as a further blow to Microsoft’s aspirations to dominate the mobile industry as totally as it controls the PC market. Samsung had been regarded as Microsoft’s flagship licensee in the mobile industry.
Symbian can now boast all five of the world’s biggest handset manufacturers as licensees, the other four being Nokia, SonyEricsson, Motorola and Siemens. Symbian’s main shareholders include Nokia, Ericsson, Motorola and Psion, which originally developed the technology.
Symbian CEO David Levin told Infoconomy that his company’s licensees now account for 80% of the mobile handset market and claimed that Microsoft’s apparent momentum was mere hype. “Microsoft [executives] are experts at the ‘manufacture’ of news. But there is no real substance to many of these deals,” he said.
He cited the recent admission by UK mobile operator 02 – formerly known as BT Cellnet – that its Microsoft-based ‘XDA’ device was selling poorly as evidence that Microsoft’s smartphone operating system was failing to make any real impact.
The announcement of the Samsung licence came 24 hours before Microsoft was due to unveil a smartphone device based on its operating system and built by Taiwan’s HTC for Orange, the network operator group owned by France Telecom.
Meanwhile, Levin reiterated Symbian’s stance that it does not plan to float a minority stake until stock market conditions improve and until Symbian-based devices are sold in larger volumes.
Levin estimated that between 17 million and 20 million Symbian-based devices need to be sold annually before Symbian breaks even. The company receives royalties of between $5 and $10 on each device sold by its licensees. About two million Symbian devices have been sold to date, said Levin.