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Europe throws its weight behind Symbian

European governments and companies will invest 22 million euros into projects designed to encourage development on the Symbian mobile operating system.

Symbian, the mobile operating system that's huge in Europe but an afterthought elsewhere, has received a boost from its friends at home.

The Nokia N8, a Symbian smartphone.
The Nokia N8, a Symbian smartphone Sarah Tew/CNET

Symbian has been declared "The Embedded Operating System for Europe" by a consortium of European countries and companies, who have agreed to invest a total of 22 million euros (about $31 million at last count), 11 million euros of which will come directly from the European Commission. The idea is the "development of next generation technologies for the Symbian platform," wrote Richard Collins, technology manager for the Symbian Foundation, in a blog post.

Despite a near-total lack of adoption in the U.S., Symbian is still the world's largest smartphone operating system. However, it has been on a steady decline for years as smartphone growth in the U.S. powered by the iPhone, BlackBerry, and now Android phones has drawn software developers in that direction.

Nokia decided to create the open-source Symbian Foundation in 2008 in hopes of lighting a fire under the software, but it's clear that hasn't worked, with reports recently that the Foundation was in danger of going under. Lee Williams, appointed to lead the Foundation in 2008, stepped down from his role last month.

What's interesting about the announcement is the notion that Symbian has been "specifically identified as a unique technology that is a vital focus for European-centric mobile software development," according to the blog post. So what exactly is "European-centric mobile software development," and why do Europeans need their own flavor of mobile software? Symbian and the European Commission chose not to explain.

Likewise, the blog post did not list the members of "SYMBEOSE," the name taken by the consortium as an acronym for "Symbian -- the Embedded Operating System for Europe." The 24 companies said to be part of the consortium include "major mobile device manufacturers," "major consumer electronics companies," and "mobile network operators," however, implying that a significant chunk of the European mobile industry has decided to invest in a home-grown project. The money will be used to develop projects around Symbian, as opposed to going directly to the foundation itself.