Is Nokia's open-source bet on Linux, Symbian, or both?

Nokia has made a big bet on open sourcing Symbian, but it's apparently also hedging this bet with Linux.

Last year Nokia bought out its Symbian partners for $410 million and then open sourced it . Now it would appear that the company's ambitions relative to open source have only just begun.

According to analysts quoted in this Reuters story, Linux may actually be Nokia's biggest bet, not open-source Symbian.

Nokia says Symbian plays a central role in its software strategy, but analysts say the role of Linux in the company's Nokia phones is also set to increase, reflecting a mindset shift for a company that has long shunned using software from multiple vendors.

"It is unlikely Nokia would be prepared to open-source a strategically important platform if it did not have another one in development," said Ben Wood, research director at CCS Insight.

"We believe Nokia needs a more powerful mobile software platform to compete with the iPhone and similar products," Wood said, pointing to Linux as the likely candidate.

The idea seems to be that Symbian will be used for Nokia's mass-market phones, just as it is today, but Linux will power its more strategic bets, with Nokia's CFO recently calling Linux "terribly important" to the company. With that said, Nokia's head of software engineering, Ari Jaaksi recently blogged, "Nokia's vision is to bring open source and Linux to consumer mainstream." So perhaps Nokia has a bigger plan for Linux than niche devices...

Regardless, with Google pushing Linux in its Android phones and Nokia pushing Linux on its Internet tablets today, and possibly high-end phones tomorrow, Linux looks like it's set to find a yet another market to disrupt and, eventually, dominate.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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