Nokia: Symbian has smartphone 'heritage'

Nokia's experience as a smartphone maker for enterprise users is its best defense against the competition in that space, said the world's largest phone maker.
Kenny Mathers, Nokia's Asia-Pacific head of developer relations and marketing, told ZDNet Asia in a phone interview Nokia's smartphone Symbian platform is more enterprise-ready than the competition, because it has been around for much longer.
"The longer the platform exists, the more mature and the better position it is to respond to new use cases," he said.
According to a recent report from, Apple is set to beat Nokia at the smartphone game, with some commentators expecting Apple to outsell Nokia in the segment by 2011.
Mathers said Nokia is ready for the competition with its Symbian platform, which was "built for smartphones".
He said Nokia's 10-year experience with Symbian has resulted in a lot of research and intellectual property generated on the platform. This has opened "far more extensive" APIs (application programming interfaces) to developers than the competition, which have allowed developers to build more sophisticated applications, he explained.
He said Nokia boasts developers from 62 countries to its mobile app marketplace, Ovi Store. The company is reaching out to the smaller ISVs (independent software vendors) that cater to the mass market, he added.
Symbian tapping open source community
Mathers also pointed to the range of partners in the open source Symbian Foundation. "Symbian is a lot more mature in terms of security and features as a result of more people taking an interest."
Google's competing platform, Android, is also open source, and has roped in partners the likes of HTC and Intel into its Open Handset Alliance.
Mathers said: "The big difference between Android and Symbian is that the latter is very mature, and has been around for 10 years more.
"It isn't a new platform where we're learning how to utilize smartphones. Android is a new platform that is evolving, whereas Symbian has a lot of heritage in the smartphone space and has the support of a large number of app developers."
Craig Heath, Symbian's chief security technologist, said in an e-mail interview Symbian's security architecture was designed with privacy and security in mind.
Android and the iPhone's platforms, on the other hand, are based on Unix security mechanisms "originally designed for multi-user timesharing minicomputer systems, and are not well-suited to the needs of modern, personal, mobile devices", he said.
He also said Symbian's security profile is benefiting from the platform going open source.
"Publication of source code may make it easier for attackers to find security vulnerabilities, but at the same time we benefit from a significantly larger community of developers who are contributing to improving the security of the platform," he said.
Broad portfolio is Nokia's strength
Aloysius Choong, IDC Asia-Pacific research manager, personal systems research, said Nokia's broad device portfolio and content services strategy will continue to see it through against the competition.
He said in an e-mail interview: "Sure, you could argue that the Nokia 5800 and N97 aren't as sexy as the [Apple] iPhone or the Samsung Omnia 2, but the stories of Nokia's demise have been greatly--and grossly--exaggerated.
"This is still a company that commands a global market share of almost 40 percent, and that ships a 100 million phones a quarter."
Nokia's trump card is its broad portfolio offering, spanning handsets that sell for less than US$50 to over US$1,000, he added.
Furthermore, selling mobile phones is but part of a broader strategy for Nokia, which is angling handsets as its entry point into the consumer market of Web services and content, said the analyst.
This places Nokia in competition with smartphone providers such as BlackBerry-maker, Research In Motion (RIM), and opens the opportunity to tap the mobile data market in developed markets, he said.
While the smartphone segment is a hotly contested ground, Choong noted Nokia's dominance in the emerging markets.
"Emerging markets are important because, as incomes increase, more users are joining the Internet revolution. At the same time, more and more companies, including Nokia, are bringing the Internet to lower price points and targeting the bottom of the pyramid," he said.
A recent report on the entry-level phone market too acknowledged Nokia's reign in the segment. The emerging markets were also instrumental in boosting its overall market share, Nokia reported a year ago.