Nokia looks beyond Symbian to Linux

Mobile-phone maker is increasingly getting behind mobile Linux. Will it be enough to help Linux compete against the iPhone and BlackBerry platforms?

Matt Asay Contributing Writer
Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.
Matt Asay

With a 47.9 percent stake in Symbian, the leading mobile platform that it co-founded in 1998 and which today powers some 206 million mobile phones, Nokia has long championed it at the expense of rival platforms such as Linux.

No longer.

The mobile-phone maker is increasingly selecting Linux for Internet-enabled mobile devices, with its CFO declaring of Linux, "It's going to be terribly important."

Indeed, with competitors and partners such as Motorola, Verizon Wireless, Orange, Vodafone, and others joining the LiMo Foundation, a rising mobile Linux organization, it was just a matter of time before Nokia shelved its pride and joined the Linux ranks.

Nokia suggests that it's not embracing Linux for mobile phones, but instead for mobile Internet tablets. Well, that's clear--for the minute--but as more phones end up looking like "Internet tablets," what will it do?

The real question going forward is whether Linux, with Nokia involved, can compete with Apple's iPhone and Research In Motion's BlackBerry platforms as they move "down-market" to not-so-smart phones.

It's a battle that will have one major beneficiary: consumers.