UI Wars: Sony loves Symbian – grits teeth

Launching two new high-end phones this week, Sony Ericsson’s CEO, Katsumi Ihara, gave a pointed reminded to Symbian that its commitment had better not waver.

“There are two important factors for Sony Ericsson with the Symbian OS,” Ihara said, ComputerWire reports. “It should be open to anybody. Not perceived as proprietary to a single manufacturer. [It also depends on] UIQ being developed within Symbian. As long as those two conditions are met, Symbian will remain our open platform of choice.”

Back when Symbian couldn’t decide to be in or out of the UI business, but really thought it should be out, a buyer was discreetly sought for the Ronneby lab. Discussions to create a joint-venture with Motorola reached quite an advanced stage. But David Levin, Symbian’s second CEO, thought it would be in Symbian’s strategic interest to continue to offering UIQ; he decided instead to keep it, but give the lab some independence.

Ihara’s nudge is a reminder of how important this decision turned out to be. The disgruntled shareholders who assembled in London this week for Psion’s EGM base their opposition on the belief that Symbian is worth more as a vendor-neutral joint venture backed by the largest handset manufacturers. With Motorola having pulled out last year, the “neutral” proposition now very much depends on Sony Ericsson. It has a hit phone with the P900, and where there’s volume and an open platform, there should be developers.

Why can’t Sony Ericsson simply up its stake? Despite two illustrious parents, the company has been severely constricted for cash. In Ericsson’s case, it’s can’t pay; in Sony’s case, it’s won’t pay. The UIQ team gave Sony Ericsson more reasons to be cheerful at Cannes, announcing a one-handed UIQ user interface that will compete for developers with Series 60. But with resources tight, Sony Ericsson has a reason to be reluctant to pour money into a venture which will be perceived to be owned by Nokia. Why should it do the heavy lifting for the Finns? [The Register]

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