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Sony Ericsson dumps Symbian, will Nokia abandon its sinking ship?

Sony Ericsson is ditching the Symbian operating system in favour of Android for its smart phones, and rumours abound that Nokia could be looking to Windows Phone 7.

Sony Ericsson won't be making any more phones with the Symbian operating system, Bloomberg reports. Symbian is on phones such as the Vivaz, but Sony Ericsson has been moving to Google's Android OS for its latest phones, such as the Xperia X10.

That leaves Nokia and Samsung to try to keep breathing life into the struggling software. It's not that Symbian isn't huge -- it's still the world's biggest-selling smart phone OS, thanks to Nokia's ability to shift phones in huge numbers all over the world. And the flagship Nokia N8 is arriving sometime in October with a fresh version of the software, Symbian 3.

Nevertheless, Symbian looks like a brontosaurus being brought down ever-so-slowly by a horde of tiny hesperonychi. With Android nipping at its heels as the OS of choice for cheap smart phones, and Windows Phone 7 on the horizon, Symbian's dated appearance and clunky usability are bleeding away the cool factor.

There's even a rumour that Nokia could be considering branching out from Symbian in unexpected directions for its upcoming smart phones. It's had a change of leadership at the top -- with speed-demon Anssi Vanjoki on his way out, and non-Finnish fellow Stephen Elop taking the big chair.

Nokia already has MeeGo, its collaboration with Intel, in the works for its most expensive smart phones. But unnamed sources told VentureBeat that Elop could be bringing a bit of Windows with him from his previous employer, Microsoft. So could we see a Windows Phone 7 phone from the Finns? Nokia says no, but we're not so sure.

There's no doubt Nokia needs a change to stay on top, and it's well aware of that. A move to a completely new, outside OS could be the kick in the backside that's required, and that only an outsider CEO can administer. But Nokia has the momentum of a road train pulling a caravan, and moving to Windows Phone 7 is a hell of a hand-brake turn.

Update: Sony Ericsson has put out a statement that gives cold comfort to Symbian fans. "We're still a member of the Symbian Foundation and follow the development on the platform," said the company, "but we have no plans for the time being regarding new products on Symbian." It sounds to us like SE is waiting to see whether the N8 and its Symbian 3 siblings can pull the software out of the doldrums before committing to new phones.