Symbian names new CEO

Veteran telecom exec Nigel Clifford to take the helm in June. His mission: boost Symbian's presence in mid-range mobile market.

Symbian has announced Nigel Clifford will be the company's new chief executive officer starting this June.

He takes over from David Levin, who left the smart-phone operating system company in April to become the chief executive at United Business Media.

Clifford, 45, was formerly CEO at teleco software and service provider Tertio Telecoms. He joins Symbian charged with boosting the smart-phone OS company's shipments in the mid-range mobile segment.

Symbian was known to have used headhunter Russell Reynolds Associates in its search and, according to the Financial Times, Clifford was chosen from among 12 potential candidates. His selection has raised eyebrows and questions alike. Despite the low profile of Tertio Telecoms, the company's customers include some well-known names, including Hutchison, Telewest, T-Mobile and Vodafone.

Under Clifford's leadership, Tertio opened new offices outside Europe in order to make inroads into the Asia-Pacific market. That broader geographical reach made the company a ripe takeover target, eventually resulting in its $41 million sale to U.S.-based Evolving Systems.

Clifford's move to from Tertio to Symbian will see him heading up a considerably larger company than in the past: Tertio Telecoms' revenue for 2003 came in at 10.8 million pounds, or $19.7 million, a fraction of the 26.6 million pounds, or $48 million, that Symbian raked in the first half of 2004. However, Clifford handled a capital program in excess of 200 million pounds, or $366 million, while at Cable & Wireless, the United Kingdom's second-largest telco firm, behind BT.

He has also held executive positions at BT, where he stayed for 11 years, and at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary University NHS Trust.

Clifford?s uniquely British pedigree has provoked questions as to whether he will be able to take Symbian into new pastures.

Citing the former alliance between Symbian and wireless technology firm Psion, Steve Brazier, analyst at research firm Canalys, said: "It?s difficult to forget Symbian's past inside Psion--ultimately it didn?t succeed because it failed to internationalize. There's some level of disappointment about the appointment of a classic British executive."

Sir Peter Gershon, independent non-executive chairman at Symbian, said in a statement that Clifford's appointment is the result of a "wide-ranging search" and that "Nigel was our unanimous choice."